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967.5 B82b 63-13747 


Belgian actoinistration in the 




D DD01 03b?0flb 5 




Issued under the auspices of the 
Institute of Race Relations, London 



Oxford Umerslty Jtes, Amm House, Ltmden, E.C.4. 


Iwtitefo of Race Relations 1961 









TABLE I Comparative Statistics of Non-European Students 

in Metropolitan Primary Schools (1956-4959) 88 

TABLE II Congolese Administrative Structure . . 89 



THERE has been much discussion in Britain of happenings 
in the Congo, looked at usually from the point of view of 
their international importance, sometimes with a certain 
complacency at what seems by contrast our own success in 
transferring power. But there is little knowledge of the 
methods and problems of Belgian administrators dining the 
years before the end of Belgian sovereignty* It is the 
intention of this book to throw some light on these questions. 

M. Brausch is an administrator of a kind at once recog- 
nisable by a British audience. He was clearly devoted to 
his work; he was not always patient about control from the 
metropolis and was indignant that the happiness of the 
Congo should be at the mercy of party politics in Belgium. 
He is an anthropologist as well as an administrator and 
has, incidentally, just been appointed to a post in the 
faculty of anthropology in the University of the Sudan at 
Khartoum. In Belgian politics, as in the Congo, there can 
be no doubt where his sympathies lie; he does not conceal 
warm admiration for some Ministers of the Colonies, a lack 
of it for others. To some readers the assumptions which he 
does not state will be of almost as much interest as what he 
does say about the changes in policy and the reactions to 
them of a Belgian official on the spot 

Hie series of information booklets to which this book 
belongs is young. As it devdbps, it becomes clear that its 
books wffl fill into two imam categories. There are those in 
wtidti an outside observer, with as much objectivity as is 
compatible with keen interest, makes an analysis of a 
given situation. Geraxi Hansel's Trageiy m Algeria fe a 
good exanqpie of tills type. Bjose m the second catse^y 
'jpfcse&t a point of view fitm within; ttet of someoiaededfiiy i; 
involved. It is among them that M. Braiisch's book belongs, 
is ' B0 less valuable ' tha* ; tbe other^ : ; ; r 


FOR centuries, the territories drained by the Congo River 
were a blank space on the map of the African continent 
They came suddenly into the public eye at the beginning 
of the twentieth century (1903), with the publication of 
Roger Casement 3 s report on the conditions under which 
the rubber trade was conducted in the Upper Congo. But 
as soon as its news value had died down, the Congo again 
became a forgotten country, not mentioned for more than 
thirty years. During World War II, the Congo played a 
modest, although very important role and its copper, 
diamonds, rubber, cotton, and especially its uranium were 
of great strategic value to the Allied cause. Consequently 
the Congo, and the Belgian rule in Africa which had made 
this substantial help possible, began to be regarded with 
favour in the Allied countries. This feeling of sympathy 
was accompanied by a new interest, attracting many 
foreign visitors, who were astonished to discover in the 
middle of the black continent a puzzling coexistence of 
African traditional culture and high industrial develop- 

*A country where Communism is not a problem! 3 *A 
country where everybody seems to be happy, although in 
the centre of a continent where nationalistic and racial 
ideas are fermenting!' 'Nowhere else in Africa do the 
natives have a comparable standard of living!' e No slums 
in the Congo P C A country of peace in the middle of an 
effervescent subcontinent!* These were some of the most 
appealing titles of enthusiastic articles written by foreign 
visitors for distinguished British and American newspapers 
during the decade betweea 1946 and 1966. 
^ M that was true up to a point, and everybody through- 
out the world agreed that this favourable situation should 
be ascribed to Belgium's wise policy in Africa. His Excel- 
lency Minister Buisseret defined this policy as follows in an 


interview he gave on 2 November 1954 to a group of 
American journalists : 

*We have temporarily postponed political reforms, as we 
believe that economic expansion and efforts to improve the 
social structure should come first. We believe that this 
policy is bound to create the fundamental conditions for 
peaceful coexistence in the framework of economic and 
social progress.* 

International public opinion entirely approved of this 
policy; on 14 May 1955 Mr. T. J. Hickey wrote in a special 
issue of The Statist (London) completely devoted to a 
survey of the Belgian Congo: 

TThis is something new in world history; for the Belgian 
attitude to Belgium's colony is unlike the corresponding 
view in Britain, in France, in Portugal or in Holland. The 
outstanding success of it prompts the reflection that 
Belgium may now have a message for the other colonial 
powers of the latter half of the twentieth century. 3 

But then came the years of the lean kine: the economic 
recession of 1957-8, the riots of 4 January 1959 at Leopold- 
ville, those of 29 October 1959 at Stanleyville, the slaughter 
between Lulua and Luba tribesmen in the Kasai Province 
aiid Tutsi and Hutu in Rwanda-Burundi, and the subse- 
quent political unrest throughout the whole territory, 
interrupted by a short period of euphoria after the Round 
Table Conference of January and February 1960. But a 
few days after Independence, the world witnessed the 
collapse of the whole Congolese structure. Since then, 
Belgium has been pointed at by most of the world as the 
most hypocritical of imperialist powers. 

To what extent is Belgium guilty? So much emotion 
surrounds events in the Congo, so many interests are 
involved, so many adventurers have invaded the country 
during the last months, so many news agencies are eager 
to publish spectacular information, that it is difficult to 
take an objective view of what is happening at Stanley 
Pool, at the mines of Lubtonbashi or at the Stanley 


The heights which emotion about the Congo has reached 
are clearly shown by the fact that world opinion about 
events there revolves around one central figure, even 
though he is now dead Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, 
who is likely to go down in history as the African Bolivar. 
At present the nations of the world are divided into pro- 
Lumumbists and anti-Lumumbists, with very few trying 
to be really objective in this quarrel. 

In this booklet I shall try to lay aside all emotion, to 
abstain from value judgments and to assess the events in 
the Congo in the last years impartially, according to the 
most rigorous scientific principles of objective investigation. 
Political phenomena obey laws in the same way as econo- 
mic and social phenomena; my aim is to analyse scientifi- 
cally the Belgian system of colonial administration in 
Africa during the years immediately before the end of 
Belgian rule, and the impact of this system on the inhabi- 
tants. Then I shall examine the extent to which the Africans 
shared in the economic and social progress, and in the 
government of the country; I shall also deal with human 
relations and try to point out the causes of the Congo 

In addition to the high praise indisputably deserved by 
the Belgians, this book contains grave criticisms, especially 
of the lack of competence and authority displayed by some 
of the highest officials in the process of decolonisation 
since 1958. 

I hope that this study may shed some light on develop- 
ments since 30 June 1960, particularly with regard to the 
reactions of the Congolese people to the Belgians and the 
other Europeans, and to the world in general. 


Industrial Development 

IF there is anything about the Congo on which there is 
instant agreement, it is certainly the economic impetus 
given to the country by the Belgians. With the exception 
of the Union of South Africa, no territory in the black sub- 
continent has attained such a high industrial development 
as the Congo, although the economy continues to include 
also an important agricultural sector. The Congo is a 
country of abundant mineral and hydro-electric resources, 
which became increasingly valuable from the beginning of 
the twentieth century, but especially after the Great War, 
when Minister Louis Franck was in charge of the Colonial 
Office (1919-1924). 

In 1953 the Congo was the leading African producer of 
cobalt (86 per cent of the total African production), 
diamonds (64 per cent), tin (60 per cent), tungsten and 
zinc mineral (53 per cent), silver (51 per cent) ; the second 
biggest producer of copper (34 per cent) after Northern 
Rhodesia and an important producer ojf gold. The raw 
mineral products were as a rule treated in the country and 
this favoured the creation of secondary industries, which 
doubled their production between 1950 and 1953. Another 
indication of the high degree of industrialisation is given 
by the production of electric energy (1956: 1,743 million 
kilowatt hours), the highest hi Africa after the Union of 
South Africa. 

Notwithstanding this industrial development, in 1954 
subsistence agriculture still constituted 80 per cent of the 
agricultural sector and 42 per cent of the whole local 

The general trend of the Congolese economy between 
1950 and 1954 is shown by the foEowing figures: the value 
of production increased by 57 per cent, in detail as follows: 
agriculture 41, mining 81 and industry 100. During the 


same period the value of commercially-sold crops in- 
creased by 250 per cent, while the corresponding figure for 
subsistence agriculture was 30 per cent. 1 

In order to ensure continuity of economic development, 
the Belgian administration conceived a vast programme of 
investment, which started in 1950 and continued until 
1959. When the plan was launched, it was estimated that 
the economy of the country could carry the burden without 
risk of compromising its future, since the Treasury, in 
addition to its ordinary abundant resources, had a reserve 
estimated on 30 June 1954 at more than 150 million. 

Economic investment was a predominant part of the 
Ten Year Plan ; 4:5 million was to be spent on roads, about 
104 million on the improvement of river, lake, rail and 
air communications, more than 21 million on the pro- 
vision of power, 16 million on water supplies. Social 
investment accounted for 79 million, and finally town- 
planning which included housing for civil servants 
came to about 54 million. 

Increase in African Incomes 

This great industrial development created an economic 
prosperity in which the African worker and even the rural 
population participated. 

It is somewhat difficult to compare the national income 
figures of African countries, because of the great differences 
in living standards between the population groups within 
the country, namely between Africans and non-Africans. 
We possess nevertheless some indications of t^ie growing 
income of the Congolese, and know for instance| according 
to the estimates of the *Banque Central du Congo Beige et 
de Ruanda-Urundi', that the Africans* share in the 
national income increased from 46 per cent in 1950 to 58 
per cent in I958. 2 Although these figures seem to indicate a 
rather slow growth, they correspond in fact to a threefold 

1 International Labour Office, Afriam Labour Survey (Geneva, 195S). 
* International !aboar Office, Re^port sw le$ salaires dems la Rcpublique 


increase in the monetary income of the Africans between 
1950 and 1954. 1 

The principal beneficiaries were of course the wage- 
earners, who constitute nearly a quarter of the population. 
The rapid improvement in the living standards of the 
Congolese population was confirmed by a parallel increase 
in consumption during the same years. Sugar, beer, cig- 
arettes, textiles were consumed in considerably larger 
quantities; in the larger cities the wage-earners wanted 
more and more of these articles which were an exterior 
sign of wealth according to Western standards radio sets, 
furniture, bicycles (of which there were about 800,000 in 
the Congo in 1960), even motor-cars. 

This development was important not only from a social 
point of view; it was also a sign that the horizons of the 
Congolese consumer were being extended and that new 
needs were appearing, laying the foundations of a new 
economic development of the country through the creation 
of secondary industries. 

The living standards of the Congolese also compared 
very favourably with those of neighbouring countries. The 
average annual income per head was estimated in 1955 at 
27 in the Congo, 22 in Nigeria, 21 in Kenya, 20 in 
Uganda; a higher figure (43) was mentioned for the 
Central African Federation. But if we deduct the incomes 
of the non-Africans the average African income comes to 
5 for the Congo, the same for the Rhodesias, and less than 
3 for Kenya. 2 

So the average Congolese undoubtedly had a higher 
living standard than any of his neighbours, but he did not 
realise this. He knew, however, because he saw it with his 
own eyes, that the European had a much higher standard 
of living than his; and the intelligent African calculated 
that in the Congo l/135th of the population (the small 
non-African group of 100,000 people) was sharing 

1 International Labour Office, LespnMfaws du travail en Afriqm (Geneva, 

195&), p. IS. 

* Les problemcs dm travail en Afriqm y pp. 30-1. 


two-fifths of the national income, while 134/135ths of the 
population (the large African group of thirteen and a half 
million people) were receiving only three-fifths. It was 
difficult for the Congolese to understand that ^ such a 
situation is not peculiar to the Congo, but exists in many 
countries of the world. 

Emergence of an African Middle Class 

The emergence of an African middle class, including 
such people as building contractors, tradesmen, craftsmen, 
small manufacturers, market-gardeners, fishermen, trans- 
port contractors, bar-keepers and various kinds of middle- 
man, was another token of the economic expansion of the 
fifties. They remained unorganised for some time, but be- 
came increasingly aware of their importance. So when 
Minister Buisseret, taking up his duties in May 1954, stated 
that he was willing to give them his support, on condition 
that they organised themselves, they created, less than two 
months later (on 4 July 1954), the ACMAF, or Association 
des Classes Moyennes Africaines. This association stood for the 
protection of its members* economic interests and shortly 
afterwards began talks with the government authorities, to 
whom it proposed a series of constructive measures intended 
to promote the development of the middle classes and the 
growing prosperity of the native economy. 

Similar groups were created later in other parts of the 
country, very often with the assistance of European settlers* 
associations. In 1955 the UNICOLAF (Union des Colons 
Autochthones et Africains de la Province Oriental*) was created 
at Stanleyville with the assistance of the Union des Colons de 
la Pmmce Orientals; in 1956 the UKAT was formed in 
Katanga, a section of the ACMAF in Kasai, the ACMAPE 
in Equator Province and the CLAMOKI in Kivu. The 
European settlers* groups which helped to found these 
associations lent a hand in their development and arranged 
to hold simultaneous congresses. 

At the beginning of 1956 a census showed that there 
Africans in Leopoldville. If their 


families were included, they numbered in ail some 30,000, 
or ten per cent of the total population of the Congo capital. 
For the territory as a whole, the figure for self-employed 
persons was 17,781, of whom 1,141 were professional 
people, 10,523 independent or semi-independent trades- 
men and 6,117 craftsmen working on their own account. 1 
In Leopoldville some of them earned over 7,000 a year 
and many had a sizeable income estimated at about 3,000 
a year by the tax collectors. 

Knowing how important the development of a strong 
middle class was to the maintenance of a political and 
social balance in the new Congo, the Minister of Colonies 
gave the leaders of the middle-class associations the oppor- 
tunity to make study-trips to Belgium or to join in seminars 
to discuss problems in which they were interested. 

Another important condition for the promotion of the 
African middle classes was that they should be allowed 
credit; the Minister therefore decided to amend the statutes 
of the Societi de Credit au Colonat et & ^Industrie, so that the 
African middle classes could share in its benefits. Twenty- 
seven loans for a total amount of about 42,000 were 
granted to Africans in 1956. 

These decisions culminated in the creation of adminis- 
trative agencies for the African middle classes within the 
framework of the Commercial Department of the Colonial 
Office and at Central and Provincial Government level, in 
order to co-ordinate all the problems of the African middle 
classes, to help them in their relations with the various 
administrative departments, to provide credit facilities and 
to organise training courses. The first of these training 
courses was organised from 11 to 16 February 1957 at 
Leopoldville by the Central Government. 

In 1957, too, the Association des Classes Mqyames Afrwaines 
in Leopoldville set up a centre of economic and social 
studies to investigate the problems of its members and give 
thtem advice about their trades and crafts. Another agency 

1 Georges Brauseb, The Problem of Elite In the Belgian Congo', 
Sodal Scwtce Bulletin, vol. viE, no. 3, 1956, pp. 454r-7. 


was set up in Brussels to enter into business relations with 
Belgian and European firms, to give information about 
export facilities and to co-ordinate with ministerial de- 
partments in Brussels. 

The importance Minister Buisseret gave to the carrying 
out of this programme for the African middle classes pro- 
ceeded from his conviction that the building up of an elite 
of independent, responsible and stable self-employed 
persons was an indispensable preliminary to the granting 
of political responsibility in the future. 


It was this same concern to create a class of stable citizens 
which caused the Belgian administration to encourage 
Africans to become the owners of durably-built houses and 
to oblige employers to house their labour decently. These 
achievements in housing are the most spectacular signs of 
the degree of wealth of the population and particularly 
impress foreign visitors. 

There are very few slums in the country. The lay-out of 
most of the urban centres has a strong traditional character, 
as Miss Julia Henderson, Director of the United Nations 
Social Afeirs Department, pointed out in 1956. As the 
head of each family builds his own house, he can put in it 
everything he fancies, and thus he can organise his daily 
life as he wishes, which means as much as possible according 
to the old way of life in the rural village. These Congolese 
townships are picturesque, noisy and % turbulent in the 
typical African way; there is no luxury, but neither is there 
poverty, and the inhabitants feeling at home were 
always happy, until political unrest started to manifest 

Besides these more traditional urban areas, the Belgian 
Government, the Office des Cites Africames, the employers 
and the Africans themselves by their own individual efforts, 
joii*ed forces to create townships that were more Western 
in character, with a foil provision of community buildings 
Ml,, courthouse, police station, schools, 


dispensaries, sometimes even a hospital and a maternity 
ward, as in the Ruashi municipality of EHsabethville, social 
centres, churches, meeting halls, full water and electricity 
supplies, a complete road system: in short the whole 
infrastructure that one might expect in any up-to-date 

There are no complete figures for these efforts, but those 
which follow may give some idea of what was done. Be- 
tween 1952 and 1958 the Office des Cites AJricaines completed 
more than 32,000 dwellings in the five most important 
towns; between 1948 and 1957 a group of eight companies 
carried out a project of 30,000 dwellings, representing an 
investment of nearly 14 million, and the Government's 
Loan Fund advanced about 15 million in ten years, 
which helped the Africans to build about fifty thousand 
houses. These figures do not include houses built by the 
Government for its own African officials and employees 
probably nearly 20,000 dwellings nor by the private 
initiative of hundreds of small employers, as well as the 
personal efforts of Africans who did not wish to apply for 

Besides the favourable economic conditions, expressed 
in an annual income which was relatively high for Africa, 
in the appearance of a prosperous African middle class and 
in the lay-out of attractive towns, another remarkable 
feature of Belgian colonial rule was an increase in social 
welfare. Economic prosperity permitted the Government 
and business concerns to allot considerable amounts to the 
financing of an elaborate system of social institutions, com- 
prising not only the housing schemes mentioned in the 
previous section, but also medical care, social assistance, 
education and protection: of labour. 

Medical Services 

Medical services had been established and gradually 
developed in the Congo from the beginning of Belgian 
colonisation. For a long time the principal concern of the 
Belgian medical officers was the eradication of sleeping 


sickness, but by about 1938 some five million people were 
being tested each year for this illness. 

After World War II, a favourable budgetary situation 
allowed for the development of a tight network of medical 
services throughout the whole country to the great admir- 
ation of foreign visitors during the last years. These achieve- 
ments greatly benefited the rural areas. 

Under the Van Hoof-Duren project each of the 135 
territoires (the territoire is an administrative subdivision with 
a population varying from 50,000 to 150,000 inhabitants) 
was provided with a rural medico-surgical centre, a surgical 
section, a maternity ward and a pre-natal and infant 
welfare advice centre. 

In addition at least four principal dispensaries and 
several centres for secondary treatment were scattered over 
each tenitoire. Each medico-surgical centre was served by 
two doctors, one of whom was responsible for visiting the 
dispensaries. This project was largely achieved within the 
framework of the Ten Year Plan. 

Alongside these government services there were many 
medical centres managed by private, para-state and uni- 
versity foundations, by the missions and by industrial and 
agricultural concerns. 

In 1958 the Congo had the best-developed medical 
infrastructure in Africa, with 3,041 hospitals furnished 
with 86,599 beds, representing an average of 64 hospital 
beds for 10,000 inhabitants; the medical staff consisted of 
5,663 Africans and 2,722 non-Africans, including 703 
doctors, or an average of 5*2 doctors for 100,000 inhabi- 
tants; a total of 525,200 persons received hospital treatment 
during the year. 1 

The feet that 35 per cent of the active population of the 
Congo were wage-earners contributed to the diffusion of 
medical care, because employers are bound by law to 
provide free medical attention for their workers and their 

1 European Common Market, Rapport star la situation sociak dans Its 
peps tfmifrwmT assadts & la. Cbmnwmw& Ectmomque Europfame (Brussels, 


families. In that way a real system of mass medicine has 
been developed in the Belgian territories in Africa. 

Social Assistance 

Social assistance was less developed than medical assist- 
ance; for a long time it was limited to urban areas and was 
only available for women, because historically the first 
social centres which appeared in Leopoldville, Elisabeth- 
ville and Goquilhatville in the years 1932, 1934, and 1938, 
were intended to help the wives of the wage-earners to 
adapt themselves to urban life. Their organisation was very 
empirical. We should not be too critical of the first welfare 
workers who were sent out to the Congo, because they were 
pioneers. In their search for new methods, although they 
knew that it was useless to transplant blindly those which 
had proved their worth in Europe, they were forced to take 
metropolitan practices as a starting-point. These were at 
that time the only reliable guide, and had gradually to be 
adapted to the new and different working conditions. 

The first plans for a more rational organisation, and 
better adaptation to the conditions of life prevailing in 
Africa, came from a liberal Minister of Colonies, M. 
Robert Godding, who proposed a concrete scheme in a 
speech to the School of Social Work of Antwerp in Novem- 
ber 1945. His plan was partly carried out by his successors. 
By April 1954 the number of social centres had increased 
to thirty-six, but they all catered only for women and used 
individual rather than group methods. 

The rural social centres themselves, set up hi 1952, were 
modelled on the urban social services, with groups for 
knitting and dressmaking, groups for expectant and young 
mothers, courses in domestic economy and family manage- 
ment, advice bureaux, home visiting, day nurseries for 
children, and so on. The staff worked most loyally and 
excellent results were achieved in individual cases. But 
these methods proved unsuitable for bringing about the 
full adjustment of African communities to present-day 
living conditions. 


Admittedly, African urban society at that time was not 
highly differentiated, and little was known about its social 
structure. Spontaneous groupings, such as certain men's 
tribal associations or women's associations, tended to be 
regarded as survivals of a primitive social structure, ill- 
suited to serve as a basis for up-to-date welfare work. 1 

Meanwhile great changes had occurred elsewhere in the 
world in social welfare methods and the Congolese social 
centres were forced to adapt themselves. This task was to 
be fulfilled by another liberal Minister of Colonies, M. 
Auguste Buisseret, Social work was also extended to men. 
Centres educatifs et sociaux were formed for them, alongside the 
foy&rs sociaux for women. Directions were given for a change 
in methods of approach: more up-to-date methods of 
fundamental education were to be used and those attending 
the centres were to take more part in organising their 
activities. Three schools were founded in 1956 for the 
training of social workers, two in Leopoldville and one in 
Elisabethville; the latter numbered one hundred students 
in January 1960. When Minister Buisseret left the Ministry 
there were nearly 60 social centres, 50 of them in urban 


The Congo has for many years been ahead of the other 
African territories as regards education. In 1946 the pub- 
lished figures were very high for that time: 897,969 pupils, 
Le. a rate of school attendance of 56*1 per cent, while the 
former French territories now associated with the Common 
Market numbered together only 480,870, with a school 
attendance rate of 11-6. In 1953 these figures were respect- 
ively 1,065,688 and 59-1 for the Congo, and 906,485 and 
22-5 for the ex-French territories; in 1958-9 1,534,366 and 
77-5 for the Congo and 1,667,849 and 34-8 for the former 
French territories. Although the latter have gradually made 
up some of their leeway, the Congo still remains far ahead. 

1 Georges Brausch, "The Solvay Institute of Sociology in Bdgian 
Africa', Ir^ermtimdSo<MS^nceJ&antd f voL xi, no. 2, 1059, pp. 2S&-9. 



Although the Congo has the highest developed educa- 
tional system in tropical Africa, the Belgians concentrated 
all their efforts on a general primary education, and lagged 
behind in secondary, vocational and higher education, as 
is shown in the following comparative table: 



Number of Pupils 





Ex-French ! 
Belgian Congo 




Belgian Congo 





Belgian Congo 




This educational system was strongly influenced by the 
Christian missions; for a long time the latter saw schools 
as institutions for the recruitment of converts to their 
respective beliefs and consequently they had no interest in 
extending the school system beyond primary education. In 
1958 about 94 per cent of the school population (1,446,900 
pupils) were at the primary level, and within this category 
97 per cent (1,406,000 pupils) were at mission schools, 
although a system of public schools had been created three 
years before. This is the highest percentage in the whole of 
Africa; in the same year other African territories showed 
the following figures: British West Africa, 90 per cent, 
British East Africa, 85 per cent, Cameroons, 71 per cent, 
Togoland 48 per cent, French Equatorial Africa 46 per 
cent, French West Africa 28-8 per cent. 1 

1 *i/Eglise en 6tai de service*, Vwante Afrique, no. 213, March-April, 


That the missions took less Interest in the other types of 
school is confirmed by the fact that they left more of the 
initiative in that field to the official education system, as is 
seen by the figures for 1958-9: 

Type of Education 

Jfamber of Pupils 







39 ? 540 


Mention must be made of the great strides made in 
education while Minister Buisseret was in charge of the 
Colonial Office. The following table shows that during the 
five-year period from 1953 to 1958 all types of education 
advanced further than in the seven previous years: 


Number of 

Increase in Number of Pupils 1 - 









The bulk of this increase benefited the mission schools 
and we observe too that the increase in the number of 
children registered at the subsidised primary schools run 
by the missions (445,300) was even higher than the above- 
mentioned figure, because the system of subsidies was 
extended to a large number of schools which did not 
previously profit by them. This is confirmed by the amounts 
which were paid as subsidies to the mission schools during 

1 The figures in this table, and in the others in this section, have been 
borrowed &om the above-mentioned 'Rapport sur la situation sociale 
fans Its pays <Twfre-mer assents d la QmammaaU Econormque EurapfamJ* 
tabks 22-3, pp. 218-27. 



the period 1954 to 1958. The statements of M. Buisseret's 
political opponents that he brought fi crippling cuts in the 
subsidies granted to Catholic schools* are thus refuted. 1 

Protection of African Labour 

Medical care, social assistance and education are note- 
worthy social achievements of the Belgian colonial system 
in Africa, but the most remarkable of all is undoubtedly its 
social security system. 

Social security appeared in the Congo with the great 
industries 3 and was to some extent indivisible from them 
because from the start the directors of these companies 
knew that high productivity depends on the material and 
social well-being of the workers. So they did not wait for 
legal decisions to provide housing, food, medical care, 
social assistance and other amenities for their workers. For 
years the best housing schemes, the best equipped hospitals 
and maternity wards, the most efficiently-run schools were 
to be found in the workers' settlements of the great mining 
companies. Before they were made obligatory by law, family 
allowances, compensation for illness or accidents, as well as 
old age pensions, were paid by these companies to their 
employees without any contribution from the state. 

This paternalistic policy, which so irritates the champ- 
ions of social freedom, produced nevertheless a remarkable 
stabilisation of labour and encouraged the establishment of 
workers' settlements with a fairly good demographic 
equilibrium, as is shown in the following table of the labour 
situation at the Union Mintirc du Haut Katanga^ the powerful 
copper mining company: 







Number of Workers 
Ntmaber of Women per 
Thousand Workers 
NmnJber of Children per 
Tho*isand Workers 
Animal Mortality per 
Thousand Workers 







1 Ruth SLade, The Belgian C&ngo: Some Recent Changes (London, Oxford 
University Press for the Institute of Race Relations, 1960), p. 40. 


The Government did not stand apart from this policy, 
but in fact supported it with complementary measures. 
Minister Franck, who initiated the rapid economic expan- 
sion after the Great War, realised that tremendous human 
problems were involved and that steps must be taken to 
protect the inexperienced African workers against the 
dramatic consequences of the enormous changes in 
their traditional society under the impact of indus- 

His first move was of a legal kind the elaboration of the 
Becree of 16 March 1922 on the labour contract, which 
was completed by executive ordinances of the Governor- 
General and the provincial governors for the protection of 
the health and the security of the workers. Provision of 
housing, food and other amenities, for instance blankets, 
became in many cases compulsory for employers and severe 
regulations were imposed on the recruitment of migrant 
labour, including the obligation for every employer to pay 
for the journey from home to the company's site, not only 
of the worker, but also of his whole family, as well as a 
return ticket for everybody when the contract was fulfilled. 

Minister Franck's successor continued this policy of 
labour protection by the creation in December 1924 of a 
commission for the study of the labour problems, which 
recommended that future development should be carried 
out according to regional plans, taking into consideration 
the economic possibilities of an area and the availability 
of manpower. Labour recruitment should be allowed in a 
given area only if there was an excess of manpower over 
potential employment. So forty years ago Belgian leaders 
were already thinking in terms of regional planning. 

In recent years, various social benefits, such as family 
allowances, illness and accident insurances, old age pen- 
sions, which the big companies 1 had granted voluntarily to 

1 These advantages were already fairly widespread because of the 
strong concentration of labour; indeed 54 per cent of African wage- 
earaers were enjoyed by only 190 firms each with more than 00 


their workers, were extended to everyone and became 
compulsory; appropriate agencies were created for their 
administration. At the same time a certain depaternalis- 
ation of the system began; for instance the employees had 
to pay half of the amount of the contribution for their old 
age pensions; the Decree of 6 June 1956 instituted the first 
legal system of old age pensions for native employees in 
private enterprise to be enforced in an African territory 
South of the Sahara. 

Labour Organisation 

The extent to which the Belgian administration gave 
priority to social emancipation, before giving any thought 
to political emancipation, is shown by the fact that as early 
as 1946 that is ten years before the first political parties 
appeared a system was created to prepare the Africans 
for the future exercise of democratic responsibilities in 
industrial relations. This was done through consultative 
councils, facilitating contact both between employers and 
their African personnel and between administration and 

This organisation, which was again the work of a liberal 
Minister, M, Robert Godding, included at the lowest level 
works councils and trade unions, then local boards of 
workers, and at the top regional and provincial committees 
of labour and social progress. 

The works councils were composed of delegates from the 
African workers in the firm and the employer or his 
representative; the local committees of native workers com- 
prised delegates from the works councils and the trade 
unions of a given territoire meeting under the chairmanship 
of the admimstratewr de territoire; the regional committee of 
labour and social progress was a tripartite board presided 
over by the district commissioner and composed of dele- 
gates from the administration, the employers and the 
workers; the provincial committee was constituted in the 
same way, but its chairman was the provincial commissi- 
oner (&e provincial governor's deputy). All the levels of 



this structure could express their views and suggest meas- 
ures for the improvement of labour conditions. 

Excellent work was done by the regional and provincial 
committees, while the results obtained by the boards at the 
lower level varied considerably according to the personality 
of the territorial administrator or the employer. The facts 
however that no great changes were made in the system 
alter its creation in 1946 and that the present rulers of the 
Congo Republic maintain it, show that it gives satisfaction 
and there can be no better praise than that for the Minister 
who was its founder. 

The same legislation also provided for the creation of 
trade unions, but their development was very slow, as is 
shown in the following table, compiled from figures given 
in the annual reports on the administration of the Belgian 
Congo presented to the Legislative Councils: 


Number of 
Trade Unions 

Number of 










1953 figures not available 










It has been said that the Belgian administration was 
responsible for this situation, because it impeded the 
operation of the trade unions. Without any doubt the ad- 
ministration and the employers felt little sympathy for 
them; but on the other hand the trade unions did not 
arouse great enthusiasm among the Congolese, because they 
ran contrary to their traditional "Bantu* paternalism, which 
conceived the relation between employer and wage- 
earner symbolically as that of father to son. This meant 
that in their view all conflicts between the parties should be 
settled preferably by a procedure of direct conciliation, 


which is possible at the level of the works council but not 
in the trade unions the classic tool of class war. 

Human Relations 

We have mentioned in this chapter some of the tremen- 
dous changes in African society which were caused by the 
impact on it of Western civilisation, and expecially by 
accelerated industrialisation. 

These influences were particularly important during 
World War II and immediately afterwards. Apart from 
benefiting the Congolese economy, the war profoundly 
changed the ways of life and habits of the people, although 
they were not directly affected by its events. The Congolese 
barely understood that the effort required of him, in the 
name of a cause which was beyond his comprehension, 
gave him an important role in the world; he did not know 
that he was being used for something which went far 
beyond the limits of his tribe and his area. 

On the other hand the economic boom attracted to the 
towns the most adventurous youngsters, who wanted to 
free themselves from the authority of their traditional 
chiefs; separated from their kinsmen, exempted from shar- 
ing their wages with them, and learning new ways of life, 
they developed a kind of individualism which kept in check 
traditional solidarity. In Leopoldville for example, the 
African population rose from 175,000 in 1939, to 268,000 
in 1954 and 350,000 in 1960. 

Economic expansion, urban development, social pro- 
gress, the rise in the level of education, the growth of 
individualism, all these factors contributed to the formation 
of a new Congo, in which the Africans suddenly found 
themselves in the presence of Europeans, no longer as the 
representatives of two different civilisations, but as indi- 
viduals face to face with other individuals, spurred on by 
identical interests and preoccupations. 

While in the past relations between Africans and Euro- 
peans bad been relations between alien groups each with 
its own hierarchy with no desire to mix, hi the new 


society such relations, because of the breaking of ties in 
each of the parent cultures, became relations between 
individuals of different colour. 

At that stage the problem of race relations appeared and 
the necessity to abolish all barriers which handicap the 
achievement of free and direct intercourse between the 
members of different racial, ethnical, cultural or religious 
groups. This will be dealt with in the next chapter. 


The Colour Bar in a Plural Society 

THE term 'colour bar* may be defined as unequal treat- 
ment of persons, either by the bestowal of favours or the 
imposition of burdens according to the colour of their skin. 2 
This type of social discrimination, which is to be found in 
varying degrees wherever different races live side by side, 
prevents the weaker races from achieving a fuller life, cuts 
them off from all possibilities of rising and makes both 
races permanently conscious of their differences.* 

A colour bar may either be enforced by law, as in the 
Union of South Africa and in certain Southern States of 
the United States of America, or just be a recognised part 
of conventional social life, but in that case it may be as 
much a class barrier as one founded purely on skin pig- 
mentation. 4 

The colour bar which existed in the Belgian territories 
in Africa belonged rather to the second type and was a 
matter of convention. Most Belgians have never held any 
rigid colour prejudices, and if they do appear they cannot 
be said to result from any officially expressed opinions on 
the innate inferiority of coloured peoples. Indeed, the 
Belgian Government, like the British, has always, on paper, 
and in official statements, shown its desire to prevent 
explicit mention of colour bars in legal and statutory 

1 This chapter is mainly based upon a lecture, *The Abolition of the 

Colour Bar in the Congo*, given at Study Conference No. 5 of the 

United Northern Rhodesia Association on 6 and 7 February 1960 

at Lusaka. 

a Frank H, Hankins, 'Social Discrimination*, Encyclopaedia of the Social 

Sciences, voL 14, p. 131. * 

* Hans Kohn, 'Race Conflict', Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, vol. 13, 

p. 3, 

4 Eric Joto Dingwall, Race Pride and Prejudice (London, Watts and 

Company, 1946), p. 163. 


Intermarriage and social intercourse were never pro- 
hibited legally or tacitly; children of mixed parentage 
received a legal status as Europeans if they were legally 
recognised by a father who was himself of European status. 
No laws ever excluded Africans from employment as 
skilled workers, or created a statutory barrier against the 
economic advance of the most intelligent and enlightened 
of them. We all know that when a train crossed the inter- 
national boundary between Northern Rhodesia and the 
Congo, the white engine-driver and mechanic handed the 
train over to their black counterparts. Trade unions in the 
Congo never tried to reserve certain jobs exclusively for 
Europeans or exclude African workers from them. If most 
of the higher-paid positions and the very highly skilled 
occupations with which social prestige is connected were 
in European hands, this was primarily because of differ- 
ences in education. 

Nor has the contact between the races in the Congo led 
to the concentration of the best land in the hands of the 
whites at the expense of the Africans. The latter had indeed 
enough good land to make a living and to develop their 
economy. In fact little land (2-14 per cent of the total area 
of the territory) has been alienated to Europeans, and that 
only in Katanga (3-29 per cent) and Kivu (2-45 per cent), 
which were regarded as settlers' areas. 

If certain discriminatory laws were enacted, this was not 
to bar the Africans from attaining equal opportunities in 
the political, social and economic fields, but primarily 
because they were thought necessary to preserve existing 
African institutions and to take account of African wishes. 1 

As the Africans wanted to be ruled by their own 
authorities and to be judged by their own customary laws, 
the Belgian administration had to organise a dual system 
of administration and of justice. As the Africans had to be 
protected against certain dangers, the Government passed 

1 Georges Braoseh, Tluralisme ethnique et culture! au Congo Bdge% 
</ &e XXZik Meeting qf the fyterw&md Institute &f Dif&ing 
bdd in Lisbon <m 15 to IS April 1967, p. 24. 


certain Acts which applied only to them regulations con- 
cerning alcoholic drinks, weapons, labour, land, etc. Other 
regulations were applied only to Africans to facilitate 

As early as 1954 and 1955 frequent statements were made 
by M. Buisseret, the liberal Minister of Colonies, who 
announced his desire to abolish gradually all discriminatory 
regulations in the existing laws. Some progress in this 
regard was made during the years when he presided over 
the Belgian Colonial Office, but he had to proceed slowly 
because of very strong hostility in conservative circles in 
Belgium. Therefore most of the changes were brought 
about only after the riots of Leopoldville in the beginning 
of January 1959. In the seven months between January and 
August 1959, forty Acts and Ordinances containing dis- 
criminatory regulations were abolished or changed. 

The scope of this chapter is limited to three important 
subheadings the effects of integration on the trade of 
hotels, cafes and places of public entertainment; integration 
in schools, the Civil Service and industry; the effects of 
new political parties on social integration. 

Separate Housing* Before discussing the first of these, it 
seems necessary to give some information about the former 
housing administration Acts in order to explain the nature 
of the effects of integration on the trade of hotels, cafes and 
places of public entertainment. 

Till February 1959 1 the Congo's legislation contained 
fairly rigid regulations in the matter of segregation in 
housing, at any rate in urban areas. This segregation was 
enforced by a series of Acts; the first of these, dated 14 
September 1898, made it compulsory to set aside land for 
separate areas for people of European and of coloured 
status when plans were established for centres of popula- 
tion. This measure was confirmed by the Native Settle- 
ments Ordinance of 12 February 1913, which required 

1 Ordmaiaef No, 11/S8 of 14 February 1959, Administrative Bulletin, 
&, no. 0,'pi S31. 


coloured workmen, servants and employees living in an 
urban area to reside in special areas to be set aside by the 
territorial administrator. 

An Ordinance of 20 May 1926 contained provisions for 
the compulsory residence of persons of European race in 
separate locations in urban areas and required moreover 
that persons of non-European race must obtain a permit 
from the territorial administrator to be allowed to live in 
the areas reserved for the European population. In certain 
towns these permits were granted in large numbers to 
servants, so that in Elisabethville for instance the African 
population nearly outnumbered the European. But all the 
Africans lived in special houses for domestic servants. 

At about the same time a tendency appeared to introduce 
segregation among the Africans themselves inside the 
native settlements. Legislation indeed allowed the Gover- 
nor-General or the provincial governors to allocate separate 
areas to the inhabitants according to their personal status, 
their tribal origin, their economic situation or their trade. 
Fortunately these regulations were never applied. 

It may seem paradoxical that very few complaints were 
made by the Africans against this legislation. Many seemed 
to accept the basic segregation, but they complained of the 
discriminatory measures which characterised the organis- 
ation of each of these areas. Thus they asked for the abo- 
lition of the curfew and for freedom of movement at night, 
similar to that enjoyed by the Europeans in their areas. 1 

An Ordinance of 14 February 1959 abolished all these 
discriminatory regulations. In implementation of this Act 
the government services and some private companies made 
it possible for those of their African staff in employment 
similar to that of their European staff to be housed in the 
European residential area. Most of the Africans preferred 
however to stay in the African areas. The first of them who 
chose to live in the European residential areas had no 
complaints about incidents based on race prejudice. 

1 Brauscb, *PluraHsme etimique et culture! an Goiigo Beige', p. 253. 


But because the very great majority of the African 
population and the entire African elite lived separately 
from the Europeans, the social life of the Africans was con- 
centrated in their own neighbourhoods and for the most 
part they went to European hotels, cafes, restaurants or 
places of public entertainment only if they wished to meet 
European friends or were invited by them. The converse 
was true with regard to visits by Europeans to the African 

Hotels, Cafes and Restaurants. In fact, Congolese law 
never forbade the accommodation of Africans in European 
hotels, but the question seldom arose until African leaders 
began to travel, i.e. not before the years 1949-50, The first 
Africans who asked for accommodation in European hotels 
were visitors from other African territories; the problem 
was solved by giving them facilities in the luxury guest- 
houses which the Sabena Airline had set up at its air 

When the Africans of the Congo became members of the 
different government and provincial councils, committees 
and commissions, the need arose to give them accommo- 
dation, and as the official services did not wish to be accused 
of practising discrimination, they booked rooms for 
preference in first-class hotels. Because of this tendency one 
would usually find Africans in the best hotels and not in 
the modest ones, which were patronised primarily by the 
European middle classes. No noteworthy incidents were 
caused by this integration of the African elite in the hotels, 
and no case was ever reported of the boycotting of such 
hotels by Europeans because of colour prejudice. Experi- 
ence showed that an hotel which kept up its standards, 
notwithstanding the admission of an African cEentele, 
would suffer no ill effects. 

Again no segregation law ever determined that cafes or 
restaurants should be reserved for only one racial group. 
Africans have always been allowed to consume non- 
alcoholic drinks in cafes or to have meals in restaurants 


frequented by Europeans but they did not do so until about 
1946. Even then they went to such establishments only if 
they were invited as guests by Europeans. 

One factor which kept Africans away from European 
cafe and restaurants was that the law did not allow the 
owners to serve alcoholic drinks to them. This gave them 
the feeling that they were not allowed in these establish- 
ments at all, especially since certain cafe and restaurant 
proprietors, on their own initiative, refused them admission 
and no law existed to protect Africans against such dis- 

A change was brought about in this matter by an 
Ordinance of 1 July 1955; according to this, caf6 and 
restaurant owners were allowed to serve beer, wine and all 
other alcoholic drinks to certain categories of Africans 
belonging to the <?/&, namely those who possessed a 'carte 
du merite civique* or had obtained their 'immatriculation* 1 . 
The Governor-General gave wide publicity to this Act 
and gave special instructions to provincial governors and 
the chairmen of Chambers of Commerce for its immediate 
and general application. 

This publicity caused a mass movement toward white 
caKs, and this was accompanied by various excesses, such 
as noisy demonstrations, with Africans behaving like 
notwewx riches y drinking toasts in champagne at pavement 
cafes where Europeans were modestly drinking their glasses 
of beer. A certain nervousness was observed among the Euro- 
peans and sometimes even a tendency to boycott these cafes. 

1 Wishing to ensure for Africans a gradual development towards 
European juridical status, the Government created in 1948 the 
'carte du me*rite civique 1 which assured its holder of a certain assimi- 
lation in matters of court procedure, movement at night and some 
other advantages. The 'immatriculation 1 was a registration in the 
category of civilised persons granted to an African hy a court ruling, 
preceded by an enquiry proving that the applicant was living ac- 
cording to European standards. An 'immatricuM* was allowed to 
become subject to the system of Congolese civil law and to be assimi- 
lasted to* Europeans in matters of juridical organisation, procedure 
m&L c|>e*wse > movement at night and other matters. 


The Introduction of the new system was, however, 
responsible for only a few incidents, such as one caused by 
a foreigner who was convicted for inciting racial hatred 
and expelled from the country. This example seems to 
have been salutary to other white people who did not com- 
pletely agree with the new liberal regulations. If In the 
beginning some European customers protested, made rude 
observations or only glanced in a shocked or astonished 
way at the Africans, most of them very quickly became 
accustomed to meeting Africans in white cafes or restau- 

But the Africans soon realised that the drinks in these 
white cafes were far more expensive than In the bars in 
their own neighbourhood and that the atmosphere was less 
cheerful hence when the attraction of novelty wore off 
their patronage decreased and became normal. At the end 
of 1959 Africans freely entered all cafes and restaurants 
situated in the European areas; but those who were 
encountered in these places were usually chiefs, delegates 
to official meetings, or the guests of Europeans, 

Shops. Generally speaking, shops have always been 
open to all races, but some shopkeepers were on their own 
initiative guilty of discrnninatory practices such as the 
provision of separate entries, counters and payment- 
windows for each racial group. 

After 1954 the Government authorities and the Chambers 
of Commerce made several appeals to traders to do away 
with these practices. As many of them did not respond to 
these appeals the Government issued an Ordinance on 
1 October 1959 providing for heavy fines and, in case of 
repeated offences, the closing of the establishment for a 
maximum of two months. The fear of these severe sanctions 
had an immediate effect and segregation In shops had 
disappeared everywhere by the beginning of 1960. 

Places of Public Eatertamment.-~NQ real colour bar has 
ever been applied between Africans and Europeans in 
places of pubic entertainment such as theatres, cinemas. 


ciraises or sports events. If at such events a separation was 
observed between the two racial groups, this was because 
of the great differences in the prices of tickets. 

Thus for instance there was generally a great difference 
in the entrance prices at sports events and circuses, varying 
from the best-placed seats to standing-room. As a rule 
Europeans paid for seats and Africans only for standing- 
room, although more and more Africans of the Mite paid 
the higher prices to establish their prestige among then- 
own people. 

For a long time no Africans went to the theatre because 
they took little interest in this art. It was only in about 1946 
that dramatic arts started to develop among them, along 
with the inclination to patronise the European theatre, but 
again the higher prices, generally from a hundred to a 
hundred and fifty francs (from fourteen shillings to a 
guinea), were a real economic bar cutting them off from 
such entertainment. 

At the cinema the situation was more complicated, 
since an Ordinance of the Governor-General provided that 
all films to be shown to Africans had to be censored by a 
special commission. Since the film distributors systemati- 
cally neglected to submit their films to these commissions 
of censorship, the European cinemas were not allowed to 
admit Africans. An Ordinance of 21 September 1959 set up 
a general commission of censorship for films and there was 
no longer any differentiation between the censorship of films 
for Europeans and for Africans. After that Africans had 
access to the European cinemas. In Elisabethville, however, 
there were rarely more than fifteen Africans in the audience 
at each meeting., most of them university students. Here 
again the high prices of the seats (fifty francs or seven 
shillings) prevented Africans from going to the cinema 
more often. 

Schools* The differences between the two races in ways 
of life, in thought and in speech obliged the governing 
powers to create a dual system of education. African and 


European children went to segregated schools until 1048. 

The first move towards racial desegregation in education 
was made when legally recognised or adopted Euro-african 
children were admitted to schools which had until then 
been reserved for European children. In 1950 admission 
was extended to non-recognised Euro-african children as 
well as to African children who were living in a family 
environment similar to that of a European family. The 
admission of these African children was decided by a 
provincial school commission after an enquiry into the 
moral, cultural and intellectual standards of the parents, 
and their financial means, which had to be sufficient to 
allow the child to finish his secondary studies. 

In 1953, 21 African children were admitted to European 
schools throughout the Congo, in 1954, 75, in 1956, 203, 
in 1957, 446, in 1958, 850 and in 1959, 1,493 (see Table I). 

In about 1956-7 the names of the schools were changed 
from 'European 3 and 'Native' to e de regime metropolitan! 5 
and *de regime congolais 3 ; at the beginning of 1959 this 
terminology was again changed to *6coles de programme 
metropolitan!' and de programme congolais'. In 1959, 
all the special regulations with regard to the admission 
of African children to metropolitan schools were abolished 
and they were now subject to exactly the same conditions 
as European children. 

The most recent statistics for African pupils in metro- 
politan schools in the whole Congo just before Independ- 
ence are not available, but those for the schools in Elisa- 
bethville may give an idea of the progress of school 
integration up to that time. During the school year 1956-7 
the three metropolitan schools of Elisabethville had only 
70 non-European pupils (Asians, Africans and Euro- 
africans) in a total enrolment of 3,625, i.e. not even 2 per 
coat. At the beginning of 1960 there were 435 African 
pupils in a total enrolment of 4,011 3 i.e. nearly 11 per cent. 
This percentage was of course higher in the lower grades, 
namely 13-8 per cent in the three primary schools, and in 
one of them that of the Athenee Royal (a state-administered 


high school) It reached 25-7 per cent. In the first grade of 
this latter establishment, 42-6 per cent, of the pupils were 
Africans. More and more schools, especially the secondary 
schools but also the primary ones in the urban areas, 
adopted the Belgian metropolitan programme. 

Another step towards the establishment of scholastic 
equality between Africans and Europeans was the inaugu- 
ration in 1954 of state-administered education for Africans, 
parallel to the systems of education administered by 
religious organisations, either on behalf of the state or with 
state subsidies, which had existed in the Congo since the 
beginning of Belgian colonisation. This measure gave 
Africans a choice of schools in line with their personal 
convictions, a choice which had been open to Europeans 
since 1946. 

While the metropolitan schools were opening their doors 
ever wider to African children, a new step towards better 
racial integration was taken in 1955 with the creation of 
new inter-racial Athenles and the opening of Lovanium 
University at Kimuenza, followed in 1956 by the opening 
of the official University of the Belgian Congo and Ruanda- 
Urundi at Elisabethville. 

By 1960 all the schools were officially inter-racial and 
European children could even be admitted into schools of 
the Congolese programme. However it was expected then 
that the former Native schools would for a long time to 
come be inter-racial only in name, although in certain 
localities European children did go to them because there 
was no metropolitan school nearby. Nevertheless these 
developments showed the intention of the Belgian adminis- 
tration to abolish all racial discrimination in education by 
encouraging racial integration in both European and 
Native schools. 

Nevertheless, some voices expressed the fear that a 
completely desegregated education would tend to promote 
only European cultural values and would neglect those of 
the African civilisation. Others also pointed out that 
valuable teaching systems existed in traditional Africa, 


which were adapted to the African mentality, and that it 
would be a mistake to ignore them. These people main- 
tained that it might even be useful to test their validity in 
a pilot training school for teachers. 

CM Service* Among the discriminatory measures that 
were most difficult to get away from were those which 
existed in the Civil Service. Until 1959 there were two 
separate branches; one for auxiliary staff members, who 
had not completed their secondary studies and were em- 
ployed in the lower grades, and another for the higher staff, 
recruited only from among those with either a diploma of 
completed metropolitan secondary studies or a university 

The auxiliary posts were reserved for Africans; no 
European was admitted to them. A European who had not 
completed his secondary studies could only be employed 
in the government service on a temporary contract. 

On the other hand, admission to the higher grades was 
reserved for persons of Belgian or Luxembourg nationality. 
Since Africans were not legally regarded as Belgian 
nationals, but rather as Belgian subjects, they did not 
qualify for admission to those positions. 

As long as opportunities for secondary and university 
education were limited, there was no need to change the 
law in this regard. But from 1953 onwards it was admitted 
that certain African officials in the auxiliary grades had 
acquired professional qualifications, which entitled them 
to accede to the lowest level of the higher grades. 

There were two opposing points of view about this. 
The jurists proposed that plans for a new unified service, to 
include officials of all ranks, should be drawn up by the 
administration and discussed by a joint commission com- 
posed of government delegates, European civil servants and 
African auxiliaries. This would however be a long-term 

On the other hand, more practical-minded persons were 
of the opinion that if an African was proved to have the 


necessary qualifications, he should immediately be com- 
missioned at the lowest level of the higher grades. Mean- 
while the jurists would have time to draw up the new system. 

The administration adopted the first viewpoint, and this 
resulted in dissatisfaction among the African auxiliaries, as 
well as among European civil servants. 

While the number of African auxiliaries qualified to 
claim appointments as civil servants was only two or three 
in 1953, it grew rapidly to about 40 in 1956 and about 400 
in 1958, The continual postponement of a decision in this 
matter created a feeling among the Africans that the 
administration was unwilling to admit them to the Civil 

Preoccupied by budgetary considerations, the adminis- 
tration was afraid to give the new African civil servants 
the same salaries as the Europeans earned and it therefore 
decided in 1958 to set up for the higher grades new wage 
scales which would be much lower than before. This news 
created a violent reaction among the European civil 
servants, which resulted in demonstrations against the 
Minister of Colonies, when he visited Elisabethville in 
February 1958. 

An agreement was at last reached in March-April 1958 
and the new unified system came into effect on 1 January 
1959. Between this date and the end of August 742 Africans 
were appointed to posts which were previously reserved for 
Europeans. However the number remained low in the 
provinces of the interior, such as Katanga, where on 1 
January 1960 only 33 Africans had been appointed to the 
higher grades 17 agricultural officers, 7 health officers, 
5 clerks and 4 territorial officers. 

Despite the remarkable effort which had been made, 
these figures remained too small for a country which was 
on the threshold of independence. Therefore the Govern- 
ment decided upon additional measures to accelerate the 
africanisation of the Civil Service. 

In each territoire the administrator was asked to choose 
his best African auxiliary and to send him to a training 


centre. After one year's training and a satisfactory practical 
examination , these auxiliaries would have been qualified 
for appointments as territorial officers. In this way 150 
African territorial officers might have been nominated by 
the beginning of 1961. 

A similar accelerated training was to be given to African 
auxiliaries in the central and provincial government services, 
as for instance the Katanga provincial service, which chose 
33 African auxiliaries with certificates of secondary educa- 
tion in the Congolese programme. After passing a series of 
psycho-technical tests, they were to receive one year's 
training under the supervision of a chef de bureau. They 
would be given a certificate of proficiency if they passed a 
practical examination and would be considered as qualified 
for appointment as clerks. 

But it was not enough to admit Africans to the lowest 
level of the Civil Service; it was also necessary to give them 
responsible and supervisory jobs. 

The first Congolese appointed to a higher post was M. 
Roger Bolamba, editor-in-chief of La Voix du Congolais, a 
monthly review published by the Government Information 
Service. He was later appointed, in September 1955, as an 
Attache de Cabinet to the Minister of Colonies. Although the 
opposition party of the moment severely criticised this 
appointment, the example set in 1955 by a liberal Minister 
was followed in 1958 when the opposition returned to 
power. At the same time, at the request of the new Minister 
of Colonies, another African was appointed as Attache de 
Cabinet to the Governor-General. 

After the riots of January 1959 Attaches de Cabinet were 
also appointed to the staff of all the provincial governors, 
district commissioners and territorial administrators, to 
advise them on African affairs. 

At the same time an African (M. Bolikango, who is at 
the time of writing Vice-President of the Ileo Government) 
was appointed to the office of Assistant General Commis- 
sioner of Information and another to be General Commis- 
sioner of Youth, Both of them were at the head of 


government services which were to be of capital im- 
portance to the new Congo. 

Africans were also appointed by the administration to 
the boards of directors of business concerns in which the 
government had the chief financial interest, namely in 
Sabena airlines and in the Institute of Inga, set up to 
develop the power potential of the Lower Congo. 

Jobs in Industry. Integration in industry had been 
moving forward in the Congo for a long time. Since the 
beginning of industrialisation, Africans had been trained 
as qualified workers and no objection had ever been made 
to such training, for instance by European trade unions. 
Africans generally operated all the machinery used in 
industry, in the mines and in road-building. The super- 
visors, however, were all Europeans. 

Certain supervisory jobs were entrusted to Africans, who 
were given the title of 'capita 3 , in places where European 
supervisors were called c contremaitres'. At the end of 1959, 
eighteen Africans were in such posts at the Union Miniere 
du Haul Katanga, and eight of them had been advanced to 
the European wage scale, while ten were just below it. 
Six Africans were doing highly qualified work which was 
ordinarily done by Europeans. 

Certainly too little had been done in this direction; 
there were no African engineers, because until then no 
higher technical courses had been provided. A few African 
students are now working towards a university degree in 
engineering, but their number is very small. 

Political Integration 

Integration in the political field may be reached in two 
ways: either by the integration of Africans into European 
political parties, or by the integration of Europeans into 
African political parties. 

Integration of Africans into Ewropean Political Parties. The 
first political activities among Africans in the Congo were 
fostered by Belgian political organisations, namely by 


Belgian trade unions with political orientations. The first 
Belgian trade union to be established in the Congo was the 
Confederation des Sjmdicats Chretiens du Congo, supported by the 
Parti Social Chretien in Belgium. Its first office was established 
at Leopold ville in 1946. The Federation Generals du Tramil 
de Belgique, which has a strong socialist emphasis, followed 
in 1951, but did not become active among the Africans 
before 1953. Until 1954 these trade unions were the only 
organisations which fostered political activity among either 
Europeans or Africans. 

Open political activity started in the Congo in 1955 
with the creation of liberal and socialist fraternal organis- 
ations, called armcaks. 

The trade unions as well as the amicales were presided 
over by Europeans. Africans were accepted as members and 
some of them even elected to the committees, but at that 
stage there were not enough African members for them to 
obtain a majority on the committees. This first stage in the 
penetration of the Congo by political doctrines was im- 
portant, however, because it was in these Belgian political 
organisations that many of the present leaders received 
their political training. 

M. Patrice Lumumba, leader of the Motwemmt National 
Congolais (MJf.C.) and first Prime Minister of the Congo 
Republic, was in 1956 a member of the Armcale Liberate 
of Stanleyville; M. Cyrille Adoula, vice-president of the 
dissident branch of the M.N.C, and Minister of the Interior 
in the Ileo Government, was until 1959 a very active leader 
of the Axmcale Socialiste of Leopoldville; M. Arthur Pinzi, 
one of the leaders of the Abako and past president of the 
Association du Personnel Indigene da Congo (AP.I.C), was a 
member of the Armcale Hberale of Leopoldville, as was also 
M. Paul Bolya, the president of the Parti National du 
Progres (PJfJP.) and Minister of State in the Cabinet of 
M. Patrice Lumumba, 

Among the four African mayors elected by the municipal 
councils of Elisabethville in January 1958, two claimed 


membership of the Amkaie Liberate and one was a member 
of the socialist trade union movement. 

Up to 1958 it seemed that many of the African leaders 
had been successfully integrated into Belgian political 
organisations ; a list of the present Congolese leaders shows 
that at that time the most representative among them 
were thus formally incorporated. 

The following months showed, however, that this 
integration was only superficial and temporary. Well 
educated, intelligent and quick to understand European 
political doctrines, the first African politicians observed 
that these doctrines needed to be adapted to the African 
mentality if mass movements were to be created from them. 
Here the Belgian politicians failed: they were unable to 
understand that liberalism and socialism had to be afri- 
canised and re-thought according to principles of African 
philosophy. In Brussels the Belgian liberals who in 1957 
supported the demands of the Africans for an africanisation 
of liberal principles were nicknamed e blue Mau-Mau* 
(blue being the colour of the Belgian Liberal Party) by the 
higher officials of the party. 

On the other hand the Belgian political parties could not 
free themselves from the paternalistic attitude inherent in 
most European institutions in Africa. They were persuaded 
that the African elite on which they concentrated their 
attention was not yet mature enough to go its own way. 
Lacking confidence in the elite, they were afraid to let it 
create popular political movements among Africans. Even 
very progressive Belgian politicians believed that the 
evolution should be slow; the most revolutionary among 
them thought in terms of a thirty-year plan. 1 

But when at the beginning of 1958 the parties were in 
danger of losing their popularity with their African 
followers, the Belgian Liberal and Socialist Parties tried to 
avoid secession by permitting the creation at Leopoldville 
of a Congolese Liberal Party by M. Pinzi, president of an 

1 A. A. J. van Bilsen, *Un plan de trente ans pour F&nandpatian 
poitlque <lc FAfrKpie Bdge*, Dossier de F Action Socials (Mkdique, 1956. 


all-African trade union, and a Socialist Action Movement 
of which M. Adoula was the leader. These action groups 
came too late to resist the approaching wave of nationalism. 
Gradually these first African leaders left the Belgian 
political organisations which had given them their initial 
political training and created their own action groups. 
This desertion started in October 1958, with the founding 
of the M.N.C. by M. Patrice Lumumba, former member of 
the Amicale Liberate. 

Integration of Europeans into African Political Parties. The 
first signs of the reverse trend, the founding of specifically 
African political movements into which Europeans were 
eventually to be integrated, appeared in July 1956 in the 
political manifesto of Conscience Africaine. This statement was 
prepared by a group of Catholic Africans, among them M. 
Ileo, second Prime Minister of the Congo Republic, with 
the help of one or two European Catholics teaching at 
Lovamum University, who remained in the background. 
The manifesto was supposed to be a reaction although 
this was not clearly stated against those who had tried to 
integrate Africans into the Belgian Liberal and Socialist 
Parties. It called for political emancipation according to 
a thirty-year plan showing Van Bilsen's influence. Al- 
though this statement was the first public expression of the 
Africans' desire to take the lead in their own emancipation, 
it remained rather vague in its proposals. The counter- 
manifesto published in August 1956 by the Abako, or 
Association des Bakongo pour F Unification, la Conservation et 
F Expansion de la Langue Kikongo, was much clearer. 

This document rejected categorically the intervention of 
the Belgian political parties, but accepted the presence of 
Europeans in the future Congo on condition that they 
would co-operate with African programmes. Abako grew 
rapidly into a mass movement in the Lower Congo and 
Europeans gradually affiliated with it in the following 
years, sometimes from innate conviction, but mostly for 
reasons of fear or opportunism. At the end of 1959 one 


thousand Europeans, Including officials, traders, mission- 
aries, industrialists and the directors of important businesses, 
were members of Abako. 

For some time this reverse trend of integration was 
limited to the Lower Congo. It was not until October 1957 
that similar African political movements grew up elsewhere. 
At that time, with the help of a Belgian barrister, a group 
of Catholic Africans in Elisabethville created the Union 
Congotaist, to counter liberal and socialist propaganda in 
the first communal election campaign of December 1957. 

On 26 August 1958, two days after an important, frank 
and generous speech by General de Gaulle at Brazzaville, 
a group of Congolese leaders in Leopoldville, belonging to 
various existing political movements, sent a collective 
petition to the Minister of Colonies, asking for immediate 
political reforms. Several of these leaders belonged to 
Belgian political movements; their petition was the signal 
that they intended to go their own way in the future. 

This separation was accomplished in October, when most 
of the leaders joined in the creation of one or another of the 
many nationalist parties. Nevertheless many of them 
maintained their affiliations with the Belgian political 
organisations which had received them in the past. But 
these links with their parent parties had only a symbolic 
meaning for them. 

From then on an enormous number of new political 
parties were founded, most of them of a local, tribal or 
regional character. Many of them amalgamated into 
groups of parties, which in turn formed super-groups. It 
was very difficult to get an accurate picture of the political, 
situation at a given moment, because the alliances were 
changing continually. In the face of this situation the 
European political parties definitely abandoned their idea 
of trying to integrate Africans into their structure. 

Did these new political parties encourage social inte- 
gration? We must not forget that they were formed in 
reaction against the paternalism of the European political 
parties and the lack of freedom and- sympathy which the 


African leaders encountered in them. Thus the basic 
tendency of these nationalistic movements was opposition 
to European domination. Nevertheless most of the national- 
ist movements had European advisers, even the most 
extremist ones such as the AjL/V,C. 5 the Abako and the 
Parti du Peupte, and ail admitted European members. 

The more moderate parties such as the P.N.P. in the 
Kasai and the Province Orientate and the Conakat in Katanga 
based their electoral programmes on partnership and 
integration with the Europeans and won the municipal 
elections of December 1959 on this platform. In many 
places one or more European candidates figured in the 
electoral lists of these African political parties and often 
such a candidate was elected by the African voters. 

At the end of 1959 there was a feeling that if the new 
political parties encouraged social integration, it was com- 
ing about in a totally different way from that generally 
envisaged by the Europeans. The European community 
was steadily becoming integrated politically with the 
African elite, instead of the Africans being integrated with 
the white population,, as in the United States of America. 

Integration and Acculturation 

The integration of the European community with the 
African elite was a condition which the new political parties 
of the Congo wanted to impose upon the Europeans just 
before Independence, but they wanted this integration not 
to remain only political, but to become general. Thus for 
instance it was announced that in the future Independent 
Congo the Belgians would be treated as Congolese citizens 
if they applied for Congolese nationality. Some favoured a 
dual Congolese and Belgian nationality on the condition 
that the Africans should also benefit from this status and 
enjoy in Belgium the same privileges as Belgian nationals. 
But before the European and African communities could 
be completely integrated socially and culturally, the over- 
all problem of human, relations between Africans and 
Europeans had to be reconsidered. 


Were the Europeans psychologically prepared for such 
an abdication? Certainly not! Too many Europeans still 
regarded the phenomenon of acculturation resulting from 
the contact between the European and African civilisations 
as an evolution from an inferior stage to a higher one. They 
were convinced that Western culture was superior to that 
of the Africans and that the political, social, economic, 
family and trade union institutions of the white men were 
superior to the tribal, clan and corporate institutions of the 
African people, 1 

Undoubtedly certain of the African intellectual elite 
shared this view. But the great majority of Africans and a 
fraction much larger than was supposed of the intel- 
lectual elite, considered the problem objectively as a phe- 
nomenon of contact, a phenomenon of meeting between 
civilisations, their own and that of the West. According to 
them European superiority was established only in the 
technical field. They shrank in distaste from embracing 
European principles in the political, social and family 
fields and they continued to prefer many of their traditional 

The Congolese people wanted to emerge from their state 
of under-development and asked for assistance primarily 
in the economic and technical fields. But they wanted this 
technical and economic development to be achieved, as far 
as possible, within the framework of their own institutions, 
ill order to reduce to a minimum the disequilibrium and 
the stress which are created by the interpenetration of 
traditional and Western values, attitudes and motivations 
in the same social bodies. 

Technical and economic assistance needs to be adapted 
to the traditional structure. Thus a new and very delicate 

1 Georges Brausefa, 'Applied Anthropology in the Belgian Territories 
in Africa (An Experience of Integration of the Tribal Institutions 
into fee Pattern of the New Social Action in Central Africa}', Selected 
Papers of the Fifth International Congress of Anthropological and Efhno- 
kgjcal Seimcef, Philadelphia, 1-9 September 1966 (University of 
Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, I960) pp. 755-763, 


problem appears: how to ensure the integration of the 
technical and economic structures of the West into the 
traditional structure of less-developed African communities 
and at the same time to interest these communities in their 
own development so as to obtain not only their agreement 
but also their active participation and the co-operation of 
each individual. 

In the following chapter we shall show what was done 
by the Belgian administration to promote the participation 
of the Congolese in the government and development of 
their country. 


ryiHE Belgians first came to the Congo in 1879 under the 
JL auspices of the International Association of the Congo, 
which concluded treaties with a large number of African 
chiefs. In 1885 the Treaty of Berlin recognised this associ- 
ation as a sovereign power. It took the name of the Congo 
Free State, and the King of the Belgians became its 
Sovereign. In 1908 King Leopold II transferred his 
sovereign powers to the Belgian state and the Congo be- 
came a Belgian colony. 

We must bear in mind that before the Belgians came to 
Central Africa, the Congo did not exist as a political unit (as 
for instance did Egypt, Ethiopia, Tunis, Morocco, Basuto- 
land, Swaziland, Rwanda or Burundi). The Congo was a 
political unit when power was transferred on 30 June I960, 
but this was the result of Belgian colonial rule, and it had 
taken seventy-five years to make one political unit out of 
all its territories. 

This does not mean that there was no political organisa- 
tion at all. On their arrival in Central Africa the Belgians 
found a multitude of tribes, large and small, which were 
the real political units of the country. 

The political and administrative organisation which 
Belgian rule established in the Congo was a result of these 
two factors and it comprised a system of local government 
based on the traditional African political units, i.e. small 
kingdoms and tribes, and a Central Government created 
by the Belgians. 

We shall examine to what extent the Congolese partici- 
pated in each of these two levels of government under 
Belgian rule. 


Local Government 1 

We have already mentioned that the first political 
relations established between Africans and Europeans were 
based upon the treaties made by the pioneers with the 
traditional chiefs. These treaties were very often sanctioned 
by the exchange of blood or other traditional rituals which 
accompanied the conclusion of agreements according to 
native custom. The chiefs were confirmed in their functions 
by the explorers and they were allowed to exercise them as 
in the past. At this stage, the native communities kept their 
characteristics, their social structure and their institutions 

But before long European pressure became stronger and 
the terms of the treaties of friendship became those of 
treaties of overlordship, through which the traditional 
chiefs recognised the suzerainty of the Congo Free State. 
This spirit is clearly seen in the Decree of 6 October 1891, 
which aimed at integrating the native political institutions 
as units of local government into the framework of the 
newly-created administration of the Free State. 

A difficulty occurred here. The traditional political units 
were very complicated pyramidal structures with hamlets 
and villages at the base, then groups of parent villages, 
then leagues or confederations of villages, then tribes, 
peoples and sometimes kingdoms. 

The problem was to decide which level of the pyramid 
should be recognised by the Free State as a chefferu, which 
was the name given to these units of local government. At 
first the village level was adopted, in imitation of Belgian 
practice; but although most Congolese villages are large 
in area, their population does not generally exceed two to 
three hundred inhabitants. 

It was difficult to found a sound administration on a 
sprinkling of small villages; therefore larger units were 
progressively adopted as time went on. Nevertheless the 

1 For a detailed account of the development of local government in 
tlte Congo, see Geofges Braoscb, 'Communes arricaines*. Revue djti 
PlMomtie de Brttxe8es t Mi year (January-April 1957), pp. 230-59. **i 


cheffmes recognised by the Belgian administration continued 
to be too small. In 1917 they numbered 6,095. 

In 1920 Minister Louis Franck recommended the 
constitution of large administrative units provided with 
modern government institutions. These were to be called 
stctews and were groups of small tribal units, too small to be 
administered satisfactorily by themselves. The first secteurs 
were created in 1922 in the Eastern Province, but it was 
eleven years before the system was made general, by the 
Decree of 5 December 1933. 

The number of chefferies was reduced from 2,496 in 1935 
to 1,070 in 1940, 594 in 1945, 476 in 1950 and 432 in 1955; 
thus in twenty years 2,064 chefferies disappeared. During the 
same period the secteurs in which these chefferies were ab- 
sorbed increased in number from 57 in 1935 to 383 in 
1940, 498 in 1945, 517 in 1950; by 1955 they had decreased 
to 509 because of a decision to create large secteurs. By 1955 
there were 941 local government units for a total rural 
population of 9,712,547, giving an average population of a 
little more than 10,000 inhabitants to a unit, about the 
same average as in Belgian municipalities. In 1960 the 
number of units had fallen to about 900 for a total rural 
population of more than ten and a half million; so 
the average population of such a unit was about 

The adoption of a system of large units enabled a legal 
status to be given to most of the traditional political com- 
munities, even some of the very large ones like the Baswaga 
tribe of the Lubero territory (Kivu), which has a population 
of over 150,000. The large kingdoms which extended over 
several territories, such as the Lunda, the Bayaka and 
others, could not be included in this system and only their 
subdivisions were given legal status as administrative 

Each traditional community was included in the chefferie 
or in the secteur, with its whole pyramidal organisation, and 
a! its subdivisions maintained their traditional rights. Thus 
all administrative instructions had to pass through all the 


levels of the traditional hierarchy 3 a characteristic feature 
of indirect rule. 

These rural units (chefferies and setteurs) are administered 
by chiefs, assisted by councils, which were composed until 
1957 exclusively of traditional native dignitaries. 

Since 1891 the chefferus, and later on the secteurs, were 
gradually provided with embryonic administrative de- 
partments, to prepare them for their role as modern 
administrative units. But the man who gave his name to 
the orientation of this system towards a form of municipal 
government was Minister Louis Franck, who can really be 
regarded as Belgium's Lord Lugard. He gave them their 
own budget, their own taxes and self-government. This 
evolution was completed by the Decree of 10 May 1957, 
which established a system of popular consultation for the 
constitution of the councils. 

Most of these units now possess a complete administrative 
infrastructure, comprising a secretariat, a treasury, a court 
and a police force, road maintenance services, an agri- 
cultural staff, schools, one or more dispensaries, sometimes 
even a maternity ward, a social centre and farm settlement 

But the Belgian administration also had to face the 
problem of organising the masses of people who had left 
their traditional environment to flock to the urban areas; 
in 1959 they numbered 3,096,269, or 22 per cent of the 
total population of the Congo. 

Before 1957 this urban population was organised into 
cites indigenes and centres extra-cou&tmiers. The status of cite 
indigene was given to urban centres which were too small to 
stand by themselves administratively; each had a chef de 
die and a council, but no adininistrative departments and 
no fir^nrta! autonomy. Larger urban areas were organised 
into centres exfra-co&teamerS} with a structure very simitar to 
that of the chejjerie and the seciem and with the same equip- 
ment of administrative departments. 

By the Decree on the Statui des Vttles of 26 March 1957, 
Minister Buisseret created two new types of urban unit, the 


commune and the mile. The commune was administered by a 
burgomaster, assisted by a municipal council elected by 
universal suffrage ; many of the centres extra-coutwniers were 
converted into communes. The ville was a federation of 
communes in the same urban area. Leopoldville for instance 
is a mile consisting of twelve communes. 

This survey shows that the Belgian colonial administra- 
tion strongly encouraged the building of an autonomous 
self-ruling system of local government (similar to the 
British system of native authorities), while as we shall see 
in the following section the establishment of an autonomous, 
self-ruling Central Government was persistently dis- 

The chief reasons for this policy are, first, as we indicated 
before, that when the Belgians came to the Congo, they 
found self-ruling tribes and they recognised them as units 
of local government; and secondly, that the Belgians also 
thought that these local government units should be 
the foundations upon which to build up a Central 
Government in the future. We shall come back to this 
point later. 

Undoubtedly this system of local government, together with 
the economic infrastructure and the social achievements, was for 
years the chief strength of Belgian colonial rule. Everywhere 
in the world the ordinary man is concerned above all with 
local everyday matters, and these matters can only be 
settled by local government authorities. A good and 
effective local government system is able to satisfy most of 
his needs especially if those needs are still inconsiderable in 
monetary terms, as is the case in under-developed areas. 
In the Congo both the rural and urban populations could 
thus settle all their problems within the framework of the 
local government units and so for a long time few of 
them gave any thought to the problems of central 

The system of local government enforced by the Belgians 
in the Congo may well leave in the memory of the 


Congolese the impressions so well expressed by N. U. Akpan 
in 'An Epitaph to Indirect Rule'; 

Our old mother indirect rule 
Liked, disliked and misunderstood 
Thou didst play thy part well 
Laying solid foundations for days ahead 
We shall not forget thee whate'er we do. 

Local government indeed paved a way to democracy in 
the Congo, History teaches that the appearance and the 
development of local government institutions usually coin- 
cide with the spread of movements of emancipation and 
democratisation: the Greek cities of antiquity, the charters 
of the free towns of the Middle Ages, the municipal consti- 
tutions of the nineteenth century all coincided with periods 
when democratic doctrines flourished. 

Real democracy demands the fullest participation of the 
people in the management of the state. In a strong central- 
ised country where the citizens merely elect a hundred or 
several hundred deputies, this participation remains rather 
symbolic. But it becomes a reality when not necessarily all 
the citizens, but a great number of them, meet to discuss 
the problems of government. This happened in the Congo 
when the council meetings of the cheffmes and the sectewrs 
were attended by hundreds of tribesmen or citizens, and 
not only the council members but any tribesman or citi- 
zen was allowed to and in fact very often did express 
an opinion on the problems of the local government unit. 

Since 1952, however, certain of the Congolese, especially 
among the intelligentsia, complained that this system 
restricted the growth of an autonomous African political 
life. They wanted a pyramidal system in the Congo similar 
to the native administration structure of Rwanda-Burundi, 
which comprises sous-ckeferies, ckefferies and pay$\ Rwanda 
and Burundi each had the status of aj&^j. 

Hie suggestion was made that the existing secteurs and 
chefferies should be grouped into new units at a higher level, 
sometMng life leagues of chefferies or confederations of 


secteurs and ckefferus belonging to the same ethnic grouping; 
this formula would have enabled the scattered parts of the 
former large political units, like the Lunda kingdom, the 
Luba empire, the Azande sultanate, the Bayaka nation and 
many others, to be brought together again and re-unified 
on a new democratic basis but with common origins and 
cultural similarities taken into account. 1 

The existing chefferies and secteurs would have kept their 
present status, but they would gave sent deputies to a 
Grand Council of the pays or the canton, or whatever name 
was given to these new administrative units. The possibility 
was considered of transferring to them some or even all of 
the powers of the territorial and district administration, 
and appointing the former territorial and district staff as 
technical assistants at the new administrative level. This 
would automatically have achieved the complete african- 
isation of the lower grades of central administration (see 
Table II). 

This policy of grouping the existing divisions into larger 
units should of course have been undertaken with care and 
consideration for the existing situation. Such a federation 
should certainly not have been imposed arbitrarily; it 
needed to express the will of the native communities them- 

The 'Statut des Villes' of 26 March 1957 achieved some 
such grouping for the urban areas, by converting the 
existing centres extra-coutwmers into communes and joining 
communes in the same urban area together into viUes. But 
the Belgian administration categorically refused to con- 
sider a similar policy for the rural areas, although it was 
supported by many traditional chiefs and also by many of 
the emerging political leaders. A few months later these 
demands were to find expression in the creation of a 
multitude of ethnical, political parties. Their influence 
became dearly visible at the legislative elections of May 

1 Georges Brausch, 'Construction d'une nation africaine*, Syntheses, 
llth year (June 1956), p. 2H- 


I960, when they were responsible for the very wide dis- 
persion of votes upon a large number of electoral lists and 
also the distribution of seats in the two legislative assemblies 
among a large number of different parties. 

These claims were the first manifestations of the African 
desire for some formula of self-government beyond local 
government, and the fact that they were rejected without 
careful study created a feeling of frustration, which was to 
grow as subsequent proposals were also refused. The 
Belgian administration did not realise that in the period 
from 1956 to 1958 the chefferies y seeteurs, centres extra-am-* 
twmers and communes no longer provided a sufficient outlet 
for the political ambitions of the younger generation. 

Centred Government 

From 1926 onwards the central administration was 
organised in the Congo at four levels, those of general, 
provincial, district and territorial government The central 
administration was situated in Leopoldville; it was headed 
by a Governor-General, assisted by a government council. 
There were at first four provinces, and six since 19M; 1 
each was headed by a provincial governor, assisted by a 
provincial council. Each province was divided into a 
number of districts, administered by district commissioners; 
recently the total number of districts was twenty-four, 
which means an average population of over 500,000 per 
district There were never any councils at this level. Each 
district was subdivided into a number of tenitoires ruled by 
territorial administrators; there were 135 territoires in 
recent years and since 1957 they have had their own 

Just as local government was the monopoly of the 
Congolese, centra! government was reserved for the 
Belgians. Until 1946 Africans took no part in it and even 

1 Before 1934 Lower Congo (capital Leopoldville), Equator Province 
(Goquffiatville), Eastern Province (Stanleyville), Katanga (Elisa- 
betnvile); in 1S34 an administrative reorganisation created two 
new provinces, Kasai (capital Ltiiuaboorg) and Kivu (Bukavu). 


in the administrative departments they were until 19M 
relegated to subordinate jobs, as was pointed out in the 
section on integration in the Civil Service. 

Towards the end of World War II the 'evolueY (educated 
Africans) demanded that the administration should consult 
them before enforcing important decisions concerning 

It was once more M. Robert Godding, the liberal Min- 
ister who was in charge of the Colonial Office immediately 
after World War II, who began to put an end to the white 
monopoly, at least in the various advisory councils of the 
time. The first step in this direction was the establishment 
of an elaborate labour organisation in which workers' 
representatives could play an active role. 

In 1947 the first African delegates joined the government 
and provincial councils; 1 gradually their number increased 
to eight in the government council and six in the provincial 
councils. In 1956 six of the eight Congolese delegates 
represented the traditional authorities and two were 
'eVolueV ; in most of the provinces, the traditional authorit- 
ies had at least half of the six seats reserved for Congolese 
representatives, the only exception being the Kasai Pro- 
vince, where the 6volueY held five of the six Congolese 
seats. The middle classes and workers* leaders were very 
scantily represented on the provincial councils; one 
representative of the middle class held a seat in the Kasai, 
while a trade school instructor represented the working 
dass in the Equator Province. These African councillors 
were nominated by the Governor-General or the provincial 
governor without any consultation. 

In 1957 the composition of these councils was entirely 
changed and the new categories of councillors consisted of 
representatives of social, economic and cultural groups or 
associations, such as notables, employers, wage-earners, 
rural areas, urban areas and cultural associations. The 
Governor-General and the provincial governors nominated 

1 In 1948 there were still no African representatives in the provincial 
cotmcife of the two settler provinces of Katanga and Kivu. 


these councillors after consulting the groups and associ- 
ations involved, but no elections were held. In each cate- 
gory the delegates could be African or European ; the result 
was that in certain provinces the number of African 
councillors increased to one-third of the total. 

About the same time councils were also created at 
tenitoire level ; in them Africans at first formed either a large 
minority or a small majority; after the territorial elections 
of December 1959 they had a dominant majority. 

The Congolese were also represented on the advisory 
boards set up by the Central Government for special 
purposes. The Commission pour la Protection des Indigenes, 
which was responsible for suggesting to the administration 
improvements in social and material living conditions 
throughout the territory, included four Congolese among 
its eighteen members in 1956. 

The thirteen regional committees of the Native Welfare 
Fund (Fonds du Bien-Etre Indigene} included twenty-four 
Congolese in 1954, eleven of whom belonged to the urban 
educated class, while thirteen came from rural areas. As 
this *body was set up to promote the material and moral 
development of traditional native society in the Belgian 
Congo and Rwanda-Burundi, it seemed appropriate to 
give considerably wider representation to the Congolese 
directly affected by such developments, that is to say those 
from rural areas. Consequently in the new councils appoint- 
ed at the beginning of 1957, fifty-eight seats were held by 
Congolese representing rural communities, fifty-two belong- 
ing to the traditional elite and six to the new intellectual elite. 

Finally the Congolese also took part in the work of the 
advisory committees of the African Settlements Board 
(Office des Cites Africawes) and of the central and regional 
savings banks, and the district and provincial advisory 
committees for the award of the carte du merite cwique (see 
p. 24). But on all these bodies they remained in a minority. 

To what extent did this system of representation spring 
from a clearly defined policy and not just vague tendencies ? 
Certainly the Belgian administration was already aware in 


1946 that it should consider a programme of political eman- 
cipation for the future, and Governor-General Petition 
established in 1952 as a general principle that the new 
institutions which had to be created should have their roots 
in the existing political and administrative institutions. By 
this he meant the chefferm, secteurs, territoires, districts, 
provinces and general government. His idea was simply to 
democratise all these administrative levels by giving them 
elected councils. 

So there were two movements contributing to the build- 
ing of the future Congo nation. The Congolese-inspired 
movement we mentioned in the previous section: it wanted 
to build up local government units at a higher level which 
would gradually replace the lower levels of central admin- 
istration, namely the territQires and the districts. It was an 
upward movement from below, from the people, an at- 
tempt to infiltrate peacefully, but systematically, into the 
higher levels of government. It was supposed that as this 
happened the central government would gradually with- 
draw from its positions and surrender them to the local 
government movement. In the eyes of the Africans such a 
move would have been tantamount to a real national 
revolution, winning for them some form of internal auto- 
nomy, similar to that which the natives of French Equatorial 
and West Africa acquired by the *loi cadre 5 of 23 June 
1&56, It was this kind of autonomy that the Abako was asking 
for in its memorandum of August 1956. 

The Belgian administration preferred to encourage the 
slow democratization of the institutions of central govern- 
ment by granting more deliberative powers to the advisory 
councils, committees and boards and also by gradually 
increasing the number of Africans in these councils. In 
this way the administration hoped to secure a peaceful 
transition to greater autonomy at the higher government 
levels, the existing territorial boundaries were maintained 
and a strong centralised authority continued to be exercised 
from Leopoldville. Even when forced, after the riots of 
Jairaary 1950, to accelerate political emancipation, the 


Belgian administration kept stubbornly to these principles, 
in order to maintain the political unity of the Congo. 

Training of Leaders 

The achievement of a full and effective participation by 
the Congolese in local as well as in the Central Government 
was only possible if national leaders were available. And 
the main charge made against Belgium by international 
opinion is that she granted independence to the Congo 
without training leaders capable of managing the country 

We have pointed out already that although elementary 
education was fairly well developed, secondary, technical 
and higher education had been to some extent neglected. 
Thus many Congolese were deprived of the opportunity to 
acquire the knowledge and ability which might bring them 
the same chances of promotion as Europeans. 

The need to train national leaders had, however, been 
perfectly understood in the early twenties by the far- 
sighted liberal Minister, Louis Franck. His plan of creating 
administrative services within the framework of the chef- 
feries and the sectewrs, in order to turn them into a type of 
municipal government, could have succeeded only if there 
had been leaders capable of commanding, directing and 
advising the new institutions. 

M. Franck therefore gave directions for the organisation 
of a system of education for the chiefs and the traditional 
dignitaries and also for their heirs, so that they could learn 
to fulfil properly the various functions entrusted to them 
under the new regulations, and to control the registers, 
account-books and other documents involved in the new 

M. Franck's views were shared by the Vicar Apostolic of 
the Kwango, who wrote in 1923 in a memorandum on 
general principles of colonial policy: 'The natural chiefs 
can only become the leaders in the work of spiritual and 
economic rescue of the populations they command, if they 
are duly educated.' 


The first school for the sons of chiefi, directed by mis- 
sionaries, was set up at Buta (Eastern Province); others 
were founded in other provinces, including one at Saint- 
Antoine, near Lusambo, but the system was given up on the 
futile pretext that it was unwise to take the sons of the 
chiefs out of their traditional environment. 

M. Vermeulen, honorary district commissioner, gives the 
real reason for the abandonment of Franck's plan : 

*It must be considered that most of the candidate-chiefs 

were sons of polygamists and likely to follow the example 

of their father on their return to the village. This was so 

true that the Fathers were reluctant to baptise the sons of 

chiefs. This can be easily understood. A school managed 

by Fathers, entrusted with the education of future 

polygamists, was hardly conceivable.* 1 

The system was given up in about 1929. It ought to have 

been replaced by another training-system, directed by civil 

servants, but it was not. The Catholic Ministers of Colonies 

who succeeded M. Franck showed little interest in the 

training of national leaders. 

The Governors and district commissioners unanimously 
regretted the decision to do away with the schools for 
chiefs' sons, because the experiment proved later on to have 
been a success and when they were called to take over from 
their fathers or uncles the young men who had received 
their education in these institutions showed themselves to 
be very competent leaders, possessing a good knowledge of 
their office and high moral qualities. The territorial and 
district officers repeatedly asked for these schools to be 
re-established in order to prepare the future native au- 
thorities and dignitaries and their auxiliaries to face the 
ever-growing responsibilities of modern administration in 
the local government units. 

M. Franck's idea was to be taken up again a quarter of a 
century later by another liberal Minister of Colonies, M. 

1 V. Venneulen, Deficiences et dangers de noire p&Mque mdighu (Impriin- 
oie I.M*A^ 1953), p. 33. 


Buisserct. In September 1955 three schools of administra- 
tion were opened in three different provinces, and three 
more a year later. But a broader plan was adopted than 
before: it was thought desirable not to isolate future chiefs, 
but to bring them into contact with the Intellectual &iu 
of the country; for this reason the schools provided training 
not only for future chiefs, but for all young people who 
wanted to make a career in local government, in public 
administration, courts, co-operatives, mutual associations, 
fundamental education, or community development 

Civil servants who had in the past been trained in educa- 
tional methods were appointed to the new schools of ad- 
ministration. Their success came up to expectations and 
registrations had to be limited to a manageable number by 
a rigorous system of selection. 

Once more the Catholic hierarchy unfortunately disap- 
proved of this move and launched a violent campaign 
against it, accusing the Minister of talcing the education 
of the elite of the country away from the mission schools and 
creating Tiihrerschulen 5 in the Nazi style. 1 Anxious to come 
to an agreement with the Social Christian opposition party 
on the whole problem of education, M. Buisseret sacrificed 
the administration schools after they had been in existence 
only two years. This political compromise was unani- 
mously regretted by the Africans and by the Belgian civil 
servants, who worked alongside the local government 
institutions and knew how much they needed leaders. 

Thus in 1957, three years before Independence, a very 
wise and liberal Minister was obliged, under pressure from 
the Catholic hierarchy, to close the institutions set up to 
train the leaders who were of vital importance to the im- 
mediate future of the Congo. This was certainly one of the 
biggest mistakes made by the Belgians at a most crucial 
moment in the history of the Congo. For this the colonial 
administration bears no responsibility, because as soon as 
the decision was taken to dose the schools it asked the 

1 See La Libre Bdgtqve* 1 June, 1955 *Quaa<! k maitre d* 6cole cr6e 
F(5colc cfies maitres*. 


Minister to establish centres to speed up administrative 
training. But as we saw in the last chapter, a start was not 
made until 1959. 

The Congolese had to be trained not only for local 
administration, but also for the higher levels of central 
administration. In January 1946 a proposal was made to 
open the Colonial University of Antwerp, now called the 
University Institute of Overseas Territories, to Congolese 
students, and to prepare young men from the Congo and 
Belgium together for a career of territorial administration. 
Such a common education could have created a mutual 
understanding between the future Congolese and Belgian 
civil servants of the Congo. 1 If this proposal had been 
accepted the first Congolese territorial administrators might 
have been appointed by about 1950 or 1951, and they 
would have had considerable experience before Independ- 
ence. The Belgian metropolitan administration disagreed 
with this suggestion and did not allow the Academic 
Council of the Colonial University to relax its conditions 
of admission for African students. 

In the coming years only the Catholic University of 
Louvain took Congolese students, because very often their 
admission into the other universities was discouraged by the 
colonial administration. A typical case was that of M. 
Justin Boniboko, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Congo 
Republic at the time of writing, who in 1955 was prevented 
by the (Governor-General from coming to Belgium to begin 
his studies at Brussels University; a categorical order from 
the Minister was needed to lift the ban. 

The admission of Congolese students into Belgian uni- 
versities was also restricted by the rigorous conditions of 
admission. Capable medical assistants were prevented from 
starting medical studies at a university because they had 
no knowledge of Greek and Latin; for the same reason 
others could not start legal studies. All these regulations, 

1 Georges Brausch, *Pour des etudes cdbniales sp6cialisees% Supple- 
ment au BxMe&a. de F Association des Ancuns Eludicaits de FUnwersitf 
Cohmate de Bdgupte, January 1946, p. 8. 


which were logical in the Belgian educational context, 
were incomprehensible to the Congolese, who wondered 
why the secondary schools of their country were organised in 
such a way as to make admission to a university impossible. 

Recently M. Langenhove, ex-permanent representative 
of Belgium at the United Nations, declared that the Congo's 
lack of university-trained leaders must be ascribed to the 
backward state of the native population. 1 This argument 
does not stand up to comparative investigation: French 
Equatorial Africa and Italian Somaliiand, two countries 
which were certainly not more advanced than the Congo, 
had in 1957 562 and 1,140 students respectively being 
trained in the countries of the Common Market; these 
represent a proportion of 114 and 904 students respectively 
per million inhabitants. From the Congo at the same time 
there were less than a hundred students, a proportion of 
seven per million inhabitants. No excuse can be advanced 
for such backwardness in a country which was considered 
to be the richest in Africa after the Union of South Africa. 

Only recently has the Belgian Government reacted to 
the situation. In January 1961 about 450 Congolese 
students were being educated on government bursaries at 
Belgian universities or higher institutes. Unfortunately 
these measures came much too late. 

Community Development 

Real democracy means full participation by the popu- 
lation in the management not only of political but also of 
economic and social matters. 

The integration of the population into schemes of econ- 
omic and social development must, in order to cover the 
whole country, be achieved simultaneously in both the 
industrial and the rural spheres. In a previous section we 
showed how the Congolese labour-organisation tried to 
give the wage-earners a fuller share in industrial and social 

1 F. van L^ngeafaove, *La crise coagolaise: 1 Janvier 1959-15 aout 
I960', Otromqae & PfM&jne Etremglre (Institut Royal dcs Relations 
Interratianales), vol XIII, nos. 4r-6 Quly-November 1960), p. 433. 


development schemes. Similar steps need to be taken in the 
rural areas. But the integration of the rural population into 
schemes of economic and social development can be suc- 
cessfully achieved only at a local level, in the commune, the 
small township, the village or any other corresponding unit, 
whatever its name may be. It is therefore called 'commun- 
ity development 3 . In the Congo such steps need to be taken 
at local government level in the cheffenes and sectewrs. 

While on the one hand the methods of community 
development can greatly facilitate economic and social 
progress and direct it towards the real need of the local 
communities, economic and social progress can stimulate 
community activities and develop the collective and indi- 
vidual initiative of the inhabitants. So the methods of 
community development are used to help the population 
to contribute to its own economic and social progress. 

For some years the Belgian colonial administration 
worked out schemes of economic development in certain 
rural areas. They were known as 'paysannats indigenes* 
(farm settlement schemes). But the initiative and the 
responsibility for the execution of these schemes were left 
entirely in the hands of the Belgian administration, and 
the role of the African rural communities remained strictly 
that of obedient performers; consequently an important 
element necessary to community development was lacking. 

Community development as a means of economic and 
social progress was limited in the Congo to a few experi- 
ments 1 in which the government departments showed little 
interest Consequently these experiments did not become 
widespread, even when they were successful. 

Nevertheless there were elements in the Congo that were 
favourable to successful community development work, 
chief among them a population which claimed to be ready 

1 An example can be seen in the social activities in the township of 
Ruashi at Hisabethville described by Mile. Yvette Piriot in a report 
of September 1969: 'Urn experience faction sodde darts mKeu urbmn *& 
BdgS (duplicated by the Solvay Centre of Social Research 


to take an active share in the development schemes for their 
own communities. 

Although the Belgian higher colonial administration 
was not always conscious of the need to give more freedom 
of initiative and responsibility to the local units in matters 
of economic development, we must admit that there was 
always keen interest in this problem among the chiefs of 
the chefferus and the sectems^ and the burgomasters of the 
commmes: it is not generally known how constantly these 
authorities referred to the Belgian territorial administrators, 
with petitions for agricultural machines, schools, dispen- 
saries, water supplies, lighting, roads, etc. 

While these people insistently demanded that the Govern- 
ment should show some interest in their prosperity, they 
also made sure that they themselves were ready to take 
part collectively and individually in the execution of the 
development schemes which concerned them. 

A second stimulus to community development work was 
a strongly organised system of local government, which is 
the natural framework of a community development 
scheme, and a fairly elaborate equipment of community 
institutions in the economic and social field. The village 
panchapat in India, the barrio council in the Philippines, 
the mura in Japan and the desa in Indonesia are all examples 
of successful co-ordination of local government units with 
community development programmes, 1 And the grave 
difficulties which are encountered by Egypt and Ethiopia 
in their development schemes must be ascribed to the 
absence in both countries of democratic local government 
units. In Egypt a Republican Decree of 26 March 1960 
decided on the creation of such institutions as an indispens- 
able tool for their future development plans, but the 
authorities agree that it may take a generation before they 
work efficiently; people must first get accustomed to them, 
and that may need some years of education. 

1 Ptd&c A&mmstra&m Aspects ef Cammmify D&dopmmt Programmes, 
United Nations Tedmkml Assistance Programmes (New York, 1959), 


We have already pointed out that In the Congo, on the 
other hand, such local government units have existed since 
1891 and that they were gradually endowed with embry- 
onic administrative units, We remember too that this 
transformation was completed by the Decree of 10 May 
1957, which established a system of popular consultation 
for the constitution of the councils of those units and that 
most of them possess a fairly elaborate infrastructure of 
departments and institutions. In each case these existing 
bodies could have been an excellent starting-point from 
which to launch a future community development pro- 

A third circumstance favourable to community develop- 
ment work in the Congo was the existence of a staff of well 
trained officers, knowing the country and the people, who 
might have been easily converted into community develop- 
ment experts. 

Although the term 'community development* is of 
recent date, we must not hastily conclude that the methods 
which come under this heading are completely new. It is 
beyond doubt that the patient efforts of certain colonial 
administrators to help the local units to function better and 
to promote their economic and social progress belong 
strictly to the field of community development. Certainly 
too many of these colonial administrators resorted in the 
past to compulsion in their attempts to improve the living 
conditions of the native population, but we know that even 
in autonomous territories there is a strong temptation to do 
the same. 

Certain less developed territories have therefore decided, 
instead of creating a brand new service with people with 
no experience of African administrative bodies or of the 
African people, to appeal to ex-district or territorial officers 
to join the community development staff. 

Naturally certain preliminary conditions must be ac- 
cepted: the officers transferred from the Civil Service must 
get used to the specific philosophy of their new service. 
That means that they must stop giving orders to the local 


communities and instead help and advise them. This 
change was managed most successfully in Ghana, Uganda 
and Kenya, where ex-district officers became community 
development officers. 

A similar change might have been brought about in the 
Congo if the colonial administration had achieved the 
creation of a community development scheme in time, and 
if the tragic events of July and August 1960 had not upset 
all plans. 

A last factor which could have greatly stimulated com- 
munity development in the Belgian territories in Africa 
was the existence of various agencies committed to develop- 
ment work, which might have been converted into com- 
munity development agencies without any great difficulty. 

Under the colonial rule certain aspects of development 
work were indeed entrusted to the care of para-state 
agencies, acting independently of government agencies. 
Two of the most typical of these were the Native Welfare 
Fund (Fonds du Bun-Efre Indigme) and the Special Com- 
mittee of the Katanga. 

The Native Welfare Fund was created by a Decree signed 
by Charles the Prince Regent at Leopoldville on 1 July 
1947 during a visit to Africa. To it were entrusted all plans 
bearing on the material and moral development of the 
traditional native society in the Belgian Congo and 

Again, as we have already noted, the councils and com- 
mittees which had to decide on the programmes were 
composed mostly of Europeans, with few Africans, while 
the interested rural communities themselves were considered 
insufficiendy mature to be consulted about the plans being 
made for their well-being. It was not until 1957 that, by 
Minister Buisseret's decision, a larger number of rural 
Africans began to sit in the consultative councils of the 
Native Welfare Ftmd, but they were in a minority. The 
Minister moreover decreed that every new project should 
also be submitted first to the councils of the interested 
local government units {ckejeries or sectors). 


Notwithstanding these liberal measures which were 
considered revolutionary at the time we cannot say that 
up to Independence the Fund came near to real com- 
munity development, as the essential elements were missing, 
namely the free initiative and responsibility of the people 
as regards proposals as well as execution. 

The Special Committee of the Katanga was a chartered 
society created in 1901 to deal with land management and 
development in the province. Its task included the econ- 
omic development of the region but not the management 
of 'native land', which was thus excluded from its develop- 
ment schemes. Over a period of sixty years the agency 
succeeded in making very elaborate and interesting studies 
of the potential agricultural and industrial development of 
the Katanga. 

With the approach of Independence it was suggested 
that the activities of this agency should be extended to the 
'native land' and that it should be converted into a 
'Special CJomrnittee for Community Development in the 
Katanga*, which would inherit the rich documentation of 
its predecessor and use it to launch a large programme of 
economic and social progress for the African communities. 

In spite of all these favourable circumstances the higher 
levels of the Belgian colonial administration were not pre- 
pared to accept the idea of community development, and 
opposed all the directions and suggestions which were made 
in this field, even if they came directly from the Minister. 
In 1955 and 1956 Minister Buisseret instructed the Gover- 
nor-General of the Belgian Congo to institute a general 
enquiry into the launching of community development 
work. But as the colonial administration was not convinced 
of the necessity of the proposed methods, it presented no 
positive proposals confining itself to criticisms and ter- 

Even at the approach of Independence the higher 
authorities refused to adopt a more realistic attitude to- 
wards community development. This field was seriously 
neglected both at the Round Table Cbrferenee of January 


and February I960, and at the Economic Conference of 
April and May 1960 which laid down the conditions of 
economic co-operation between the Congo and Belgium. 
Neither of these conferences went beyond general economic 
considerations, or conceived any economic planning except 
on the national, company or trade union Ievels 3 considering 
the level of the local communities to be accessory if not 
negligible. They did not realise the importance of local 
government institutions in instigating a popular momentum 
among the mass of the population toward economic and 
social progress. 

Aware that the Belgian Government was either not 
willing or else not able to support such a scheme, the 
General Executive College 1 asked the International Co- 
operation Administration to send a delegation to study 
methods for the development of Congolese local commun- 
ities. This was done in April and May 1960 and an agri- 
cultural extension scheme was planned, but because of the 
prevailing political conditions, nothing was done about it. 

Owing to the shortcomings of the colonial administration, 
the Government of the Congo Republic found itself in 
July 1960 faced with the whole burden of launching from 
nothing a development plan for the economic and social 
progress of the local communities. 

1 The General Executive College was a board of seven, exercising 
supreme administrative powers in the Belgian Congo from tbe end 
of tlie Rjotmd Table Conference to Independence Day. It was com- 
posed of tfee GoTrcroar-General and six African members, one for 
eackpfcOfviace* appointed by delegates to the Round Table Conference. 


"T 4 TE started this account by observing the great benefits 
VV brought to the Congo by its mineral wealth. This 
made possible a rapid industrialisation and consequently 
a high national income in which the Africans shared, as 
wage-earners or by selling their agricultural products, and 
also an elaborate system of social institutions. Certainly 
there were great differences between the African and 
European ways of life, but the Government took care that 
certain discriminatory measures which had been enforced 
to protect the Africans did not become vexatious and as 
soon as they were no longer needed they were gradually 

In the chapter on the participation of the Africans in 
government we mentioned that local government was 
always completely African. But there were serious short- 
comings in the Congolese system, in particular the insuf- 
ficient representation of Africans in central government, the 
lack of training of Africans for leadership and the failure 
to bring about active participation by the Congolese in the 
social and economic development schemes which directly 
concerned them. 

But can we say that these few faults were sufficiently 
important to neutralise completely all the favourable 
elements we have mentioned? Certainly not. Other factors 
contributed to the collapse of the Congo and we shall try 
to bring them out in this chapter. 

Belgian Ignorance and Misapprehensions about the Conga 

For years the Belgians, the man in the street as well as the 
political leaders, took very little interest in African affairs. 
The average Belgian has never been imperiaBstically 
minded and he did not bother much about the African 


territories administered by his country. Even the Belgian 
politicians did not give them much thought; for instance, 
the Minister of Colonies generally made his annual report 
on African affairs to a nearly empty Parliament. Conse- 
quently there were many false ideas in Belgium about the 
Congo. The Belgian man in the street knew little about what 
was going on in Central Africa; he ignored the great social, 
economic and even political changes which were occurring 
and continued to think in terms of a barbarous Africa 
inhabited by savages. 

Great was the astonishment of the bulk of the Belgian 
population when, at the invitation of the Minister of 
Colonies, the first groups of Africans visited Belgium and 
it was discovered that those 'native' visitors were well- 
educated and courteous people, speaking French correctly, 
easily understanding what was explained to them and show- 
ing a good cultural background. The shock was the 
greater as the first of these visitors was the lordly and spectac- 
ular figure of Mwami Mutara Rudahigwa of Rwanda. 

At once the Belgians went to the other extreme ; forgetting 
that these people had been invited because they were the 
most distinguished of their countrymen, because they were 
an Mite, they could not understand why all the Congo 
people had not been given more civic rights in their country. 
And when clashes occurred in Leopoldville in January 
1959, the astonishment of the Belgian people grew quickly 
into indignation and Belgian colonials who were in Belgium 
at that time were accused of being imperialists, profiteers, 
exploiters; in some cases their cars were stoned. While the 
term 'colonial* acquired a pejorative meaning, the c coloni- 
aux* invented the nickname 'Belgicains 5 for their metro- 
politan compatriots, whom they accused of not wanting to 
understand the real nature of the situation in Central 
Africa. Thus a real rift developed between the *Belgicains' 
and the 'coloniaox 3 . 

Belgian politicians discovered the Congo in 1947, when a 
of the Belgian Senate paid a visit of several 


weeks, to investigate the situation In the overseas territories 
and to make recommendations for future policy. The report 
which was published after the visit contains information 
about general administration, demography, justice, trans- 
port, public health, economics, as well as a remarkable 
report (by far the most detailed section, fifty pages long) by 
M, Buisseret on education; special sections were devoted 
to the settlers, the Eurafricans and the indigenous and 
white workers. But little attention or none was given to 
such important items as native administration, the training 
of leaders, the problem of the elites, human relations, the 
political advancement of the Africans, the economic and 
social progress of the local communities, fundamental 
education, housing and the promotion of an African 
middle class. 

During their journey many of these politicians were more 
concerned about their Belgian voters than about the great 
colonial problems of the moment; the Social Christian 
Senators made a point of visiting Catholic missionaries and 
stayed away from the Protestant mission stations, while the 
Socialists showed a particular interest in the white wage- 

Later more and more politicians came to the Congo and 
they showed a growing interest in African problems, but 
unfortunately the judgment of many of them was tainted 
with Western prejudices. They envisaged the future evo- 
lution of African society on an ethnocentric pattern, as a 
perfect reproduction of the Western prototype of industrial 
and democratic revolution, and they were convinced that 
the values, as well as the attitudes and the motivations of 
Western civilisation should be instilled, along with Western 

Nevertheless some differences could be observed be- 
tween the views of the various parties. The Social Christians 
considered that the overseas territories ought to develop 
towards becoming a Christian state, obeying Christian 
principles; and that African traditional institutions and 
African cfaiefe wer relics of a paganism which had to be 


extirpated ; consequently they declared that old institutions 
and the traditional authorities were no longer suited to 
modern conditions and suggested that new institutions 
should be substituted, with statutes based upon the Social 
Christian doctrines and directed by an intellectual liite^ 
educated in Catholic schools; in the next section we shall 
show how this policy was enforced between 1948 and 
1954. 1 

The Socialists professed to be more flexible; just as they 
have adapted their Marxist doctrine to the Western men- 
tality, they were ready to do the same in Central Africa in 
order to reconcile their principles with the African phil- 
osophy and the African political and social structure. In 
fact, however, the Socialists showed themselves to be cate- 
gorically opposed to African traditionalism, which in their 
view expressed a primitive and old-fashioned feudalism; 
they could not agree to the maintenance of customary 
chiefs, drawing their power from hereditary and aristo- 
cratic rights or wealth; socialist syndicalism was also 
opposed to the corporate nature of African tribal life. 

The Liberals showed more comprehension of African 
society; they considered that African philosophy and the 
African political and social structure should serve as a basis 
for the future development of that society; liberal policy 
consisted principally in helping the Africans to the full to 
adapt their institutions to new contingencies, but in their 
view these adaptations should not necessarily be achieved 
in accordance with European principles 3 but might follow 
African patterns. MM. Franck, Godding and Buisseret 
adhered to this policy when they were in charge of the 
Ministry of Colonies. 

1 The spokesman for tMs policy was Professor G. Malengreau of the 
University of Lonvain; he stated these opinions in a written answer 
to suggestions by different Belgian personalities about *La formation 
poiitique des indigenes congoJais', organised by Prok&mcs d'AJhqae 
Central* in its issues nos. 13 and 14 (1951). The same year, in his 
encyclical Ewmgdn Prsec&nes, Pope Pius XII insisted on the need to 
develop Oatfeo&>iBSf)ired economic and social associatjom and 
in missionary countries. 


These differences of approach by the Belgian political 
parties to colonial policy were responsible for certain 
vacillations after World War II. 

Inconsistency of Belgian Colonial Policy 

Four periods are distinguishable in Belgian colonial 
policy since World War II: 1945-1947: a period of social 
progress; 1947-1954: a period of assimilation; 1954-1958: 
a period of gradual emancipation; 1958-1960: a period of 
headlong emancipation. 

Social Reforms (1945-1947). Because of the lack of 
interest among the Belgian people and politicians in the 
problems of the Congo, the Belgian colonial administration 
the Ministry of Colonies in Brussels as well as the general 
government departments in Leopoldville was for years in 
a state of isolation; it was obliged to act alone, without any 
help from outside, and as everything seemed to be working 
very well it was not inclined to make revolutionary changes. 

Immediately after World War II, from 1945 to 1947, a 
very sincere desire sprang up all over the world to advance 
colonial territories towards greater freedom. When M. 
Godding became Minister of Colonies in 1945, he intended 
to apply gradually the resolutions of the United Nations 
Charter with regard to the non-autonomous territories 
which had been adopted at the San Francisco Conference 
in 1945. He was responsible for the creation of a special 
section of Information and Propaganda for the Africans^ 
which gave assistance and advice to African c cercles j and 
clubs, created or encouraged the creation of African news- 
papers, arranged African radio and film programmes and 
encouraged the public expression of African opinion. 

In January 1946 Minister Godding directed the Gover- 
nor-General to issue the Ordinances on the organisation of 
labour for Africans (see pp. 15-16) imposing an obligatory 
system of works councils, local labour committees, 
commissions of labour and social progress, and authorising 
the creation of trade unions. 


The same Minister prepared the plans for the foundation 
of an organised department of social assistance, of ihtFonds 
du Bun-Eire Indigene and of the Office des Cites Africaines, but 
unfortunately he had to leave the Colonial Office before 
completing his projects, owing to a change of government 
in Belgium. His departure was unanimously regretted, by 
the Africans to whom he had given a glimpse of hope of more 
freedom, as well as by the Europeans, who had confidence 
in the wisdom of this quiet man who wanted to keep the 
Congo out of the political turmoil in Belgium. ' 

Policy of Assimilation (1947-1954). Minister Wigny, 
M. Godding's successor, started very wisely to carry out the 
projects mentioned above, but while M. Godding had a 
liberal structure in mind, with Africans participating fully 
in the work of the new institutions, his successor reverted to 
the old Belgian paternalistic pattern giving little or no 
initiative or responsibility to the Africans. 

But those in power from 1948 to 1954 were obliged to 
make some response to the claims of the Congolese for 
fuller participation and it was they who devised the carte 
du merite civique and the immatriculation of Africans, which 
after a long and vexatious enquiry into their private lives 
gave certain privileges, which very often remained theor- 
etical, to the very tiny minority who were assimilated to 
European standards of life. The official attitude was that 
the Africans ought to merit their advance to European 
status, and that this advance should be achieved very slowly. 

Besides these decrees, intended to hold out bright pros- 
pects to the Africans, there were others that attempted to 
force the mass of the population into a European, Christian 
way of life, for instance by the abolition of polygamy, the 
protection of monogamy, the proscription of certain 
traditional associations which secured the maintenance of 
pagan rituals, and likewise of the autonomous Christian 
churches such as Kibangism and Kitawala which tried to 
respond to spiritual aspirations which the older-established 
churches could not fully satisfy. According to the Social 


Christian doctrine, this policy aimed at preparing the way 
for a Congolese State loyal to the Church, where the 
priests would be the shepherds of the population. 

In fact the period from 1947 to 1954 was one of little 
movement; the progressive policy of M. Godding had been 
halted and this immobilism was encouraged unconsciously 
by international public opinion, which praised to the skies 
the wise policy of Belgium, often making things difficult for 
certain people and groups at home, who were demanding 
a long-range political programme for the future. 

Gradual Emancipation (1954-1958). The 1954 elections 
in Belgium brought into power a liberal-socialist coalition 
Government and a liberal Colonial Minister., who decided 
to go on with the progressive programme started by M. 
Godding. Compared with the previous years a great deal 
was achieved during this four-year period. 

Greater freedom of speech and of publication was allowed 
as long as public order was not endangered; in the field of 
public administration new Royal Decrees provided for the 
fuller democratisation of local government institutions in 
both rural and urban areas, and the Africans were given a 
fuller share in the various institutions which directly con- 
cerned them; the powers and prestige of the African 
authorities were strengthened; the social assistance services 
were developed, the number of social centres was doubled 
and new methods of social action were inaugurated; all 
forms of racial discrimination were gradually eliminated; 
full freedom of association, and specifically of association in 
trade unions, was granted; more progressive social security 
and insurance legislation gave African labour most of the 
social advantages to be found in the more highly-developed 
countries; the whole educational system was developed and 
integrated and two universities were founded. 

The coalition Government would have liked to do more, 
but even these innovations were given an unfriendly 
reception by the conservatives. The latter had the complete 
support of the opposition party of the moment, which 


thought only of its short-term electoral interests and not of 
the interests of the Congo and the Belgian future in the 
Congo. Thus, for fear of being regarded as extremists, sup- 
porters of Communism and the grave-diggers of the Belgian 
nation, a very liberal and far-sighted Government was 
obliged to moderate its programme of emancipation for the 
Congo at a most crucial moment. 

Looking back at this period now, after Independence, 
we must admit that in view of what was going to happen, 
this very progressive policy was still too timid. I use the 
word 'timid' with full knowledge of the facts, because from 
1954 to 1957 I was myself an adviser on political and social 
affairs on the staff of the Ministry of Colonies and I am 
fully aware that during this period we were too slow in 
introducing the innovations which were needed for the 
months to come. 

No Timetable for Independence 

Although the political parties were the first means by 
which the Africans could express their demands for inde- 
pendence, the idea had never been absent from their minds 
since the Belgians occupied the country in 1879. It would 
be unrealistic to deny this; white people have always been 
regarded in the Congo as an occupying power hi a con- 
quered country. And although the Governor-General of the 
Congo admitted in 1952 that it was time to think about a 
programme of gradual political emancipation for the 
African population, the word 'independence' never ap- 
peared in his speeches. The idea of granting independence 
to the Congo in some far distant future was first expressed 
by Belgian statesmen in 1954, when the radical coalition 
Government came to power. 

The first serious public demands for independence were, 
however, made in July and August 1956 in the manifestos 
of Conscience Africaiw and of Abako> and at that time the most 
extreme nationalists talked in terms of a thirty-year plan, 
postponing complete independence to 1986. Wide of the 
mark as it was, this proposal was received at the time with 


real terror by the Belgians, in the Congo as well as in the 

The Minister of Colonies and the Governor-General both 
refused to respond to these manifestos with a concrete 
government plan; they regarded the proclamations as 
nonsense and even certain African political leaders thought 
of course quite unrealistically that Belgian rule would 
last another hundred years. 

This was unrealistic because about that time internal 
autonomy was granted to the French territories in Africa 
by the loi cadre' of Minister Deferre and full independence 
was given to the Sudan and Ghana. We can see now how 
far the two very liberal Decrees democratising African local 
government lagged behind what was going on in the 
neighbouring territories. 

Thus 1956 appears in the history of the Congo as a 
dangerous turning-point. In that year the Belgian colonial 
administration, which till then had always kept ahead of 
social and political claims, was passed by them, and would 
never catch them up again. No reply was given to the manifes- 
tos of Conscience Afncaine and Abako\ claims of c equal pay for 
equal work' were shelved and only granted three years later. 

This was certainly a great mistake for a very progressive 
Government but, as we mentioned before, this political 
timidity was brought about by the uncomprehending 
attitude of a narrow-minded opposition party, which 
refused to understand that certain problems of national 
importance needed to be examined apart from all electoral 
preoccupations. Instead the Social Christian politicians 
appealed to public opinion with striking slogans which 
were very harmful to the reputation of the Government, 
representing very moderate innovations as having a revo- 
lutionary character. This was a dangerous game, because 
public opinion is very inconsistent and as quick to become 
indignant at the supposed threat of losing colonial terri- 
tories, as at the misdoings of the white colonialists. The 
strong pressure of such opinion prevented the Government 
from achieving further innovations. 


1956 was also the year of the economic recession in the 
United States of America, and as the economy of the Congo 
was very dependent upon that of the U.S., this recession 
was felt there more deeply than in other countries. 

At the same time it was decided that because of the fall 
in financial resources social projects which were not directly 
productive should be halted. Among these was the scheme 
for economic and social advancement in the rural areas by 
the methods of community development, which were 
wrongly presented by certain conservatives as being Com- 
munist or Marxist inspired. 

So of the three pillars of the Congolese structure, econ- 
omic prosperity, social progress and local administration^ two 
were badly undermined. The last alone retained its strength. 

The 1958 elections brought a new change in the Belgian 
political field; a Socialist Christian Government again 
came into power and the Governor-General, M. Petillon, 
accepted the Ministry of Colonies, but changed its title to 
'Ministry of the Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi'. He 
decided on a policy of 'decolonisation 5 and appointed a 
parliamentary commission, to make an enquiry in the 
Congo with a view to formulating a policy of emancipation. 
This decision took the initiative and the responsibility for 
the management of the country away from the Belgian 
authorities in the Congo and surrendered its destiny to the 
Belgian politicians. From now on every decision by an 
authority in the Congo, every event, was subject to discus- 
sion in Belgium; as a reaction the Congo authorities would 
refer the smallest decision to their superiors and conse- 
quently the administrative machinery seized up. 

Meanwhile political unrest had started to develop and 
culminated in the riots of January 1959 in Leopoldville, 
before any programme for political emancipation had been 
announced. On 13 January 1959, nine days after the be- 
ginning of the riots, the Belgian Government at last an- 
nounced a decision; but the speed with which ideas had 
developed in two and a half years was shown by the fact 
that what it now proposed was a five-year plan. 


This was accepted at first by aU the political parties, 
except the Abako, but was rejected in June by the 'Memor- 
andum of the Eight 5 (the eight most important political 
parties at the time), which demanded independence in 
1961. Immediately after that M. Lumumba's Mouvement 
National Congolais asked for independence in June 1960. 

In order to come to an agreement with the political 
leaders, the Belgian Government organised a Round Table 
Conference in January and February 1960 at which 45 
Congolese political leaders met the mandated delegates of 
the Belgian Government and the three Belgian traditional 
parties. The decision was taken to grant complete independ- 
ence on 30 June 1960. The thirty-year plan had shrunk to 
nothing and in fact no timetable governed the transition 
of the Congo from a colony to an independent state . 

The Belgian political leaders, who had been worried in 
1956, 1957 and 1958 by the deterioration in the economic 
situation, completely lost confidence in the future of the 
Congo after the tragic events of January 1959. Entirely 
overwhelmed by these events, they were unable as was 
the Belgian colonial administration too to think out a 
sound plan of decolonisation; when they had a plan, they 
lacked the courage to put it into operation and retreated 
before the demands of the first Congolese leader who 
opposed them. 

Breakdown of Authority 

African Authority. The principle of authority has always 
been sacred in African society, because it was associated 
with paternal power. The patriarch of the kinship group, 
the master of the workshop, the leader of a magico-political 
society or the chief of a tribe were respected and venerated 
by those who were dependent upon them, not because they 
were feared, but because they protected them by their 
authority as the father protects his children. The man who 
was feared was regarded as an enemy and not as a 


When the Belgians penetrated into Central Africa, they 
recognised the African traditional institutions with their 
whole hierarchy of authorities; but during the years which 
followed they curtailed many of their powers and, through 
ignorance, often transgressed against the rules of respect due 
toward chiefs. But the chiefs' authority was safeguarded 
by the fact that they still exercised their traditional 
powers, though in a diminished form. In the new 
circumstances and kept their dominant position among 
their kinsmen. 

The successive Decrees of 1891, 1906, 1910 and 1933 
recognised the chiefs as the cornerstone of native administra- 
tion; they were indeed the spokesmen for their tribesmen 
to the colonial administration and they also ensured that 
decisions of the colonial administration were carried out in 
their districts. This task was not easy as they very often had 
to reconcile sharply conflicting points of view; nevertheless 
they succeeded fairly well because they were listened to as 
wise and venerated leaders. 

It was in about 1943 that certain progressive Belgians 
started to criticise the system; they accused the chiefs of 
being feudalists, fossilised conservatives, keeping their 
subjects in a backward state and incapable of adapting 
themselves to modern contingencies. This campaign 
against the chiefs was conducted at first by Mgr. de 
Hemptinne of Elisabethville and a group of young Belgian 
Catholics, who advocated the substitution of young 
c eVolues' for the traditional chiefs. 1 

1 M. Antoine Rubbens, an Elisabethville barrister, collected in a book, 
under the title Dettes de guerre (Elisabethville, Les Cahiers de la 
PoIItique Indigene, 1945), a series of articles published by these 
young Catholics during the years 1944 and 1945 in the newspaper 
VEssor du Congo. The feelings of the group towards the traditional 
chiefs appears for instance on p. 25, where Rubbens blames the 
'decrepitude of the chiefs* and the Venality of the judges* and on 
p. 47, where he calls the chiefs 'useless puppets, whose right place is 
in a folk-museum* and accuses them 'of committing all sorts of ex- 
actions and abuses*. On p. 31, one of the writers, P.G., speaking of 
the traditional judges, calls them *a gang of leeches'. 


This point of view was adopted by the Social Christian 
Party and from 1947 to 1954 their Ministers favoured this 
policy; however the young educated chiefs found it very 
difficult to impose their authority, because they did not 
possess the traditional prestige; at the same time great 
damage was done to the authority of the traditional chiefs. 
Various eminent colonial personalities and administrators 
saw the danger of this deterioration of authority and they 
warned the higher colonial administration of the detri- 
mental consequences it might have on the maintenance 
of law and order. 1 

Minister Buisseret tried to re-establish the authority of 
the chiefs by improving their material situation, giving 
them a higher status, inviting them to important national 
ceremonies, arranging visits and study tours for them, 
increasing their participation in different advisory boards, 
founding schools of administration for the training of 
future chiefs and especially by increasing their powers at 
local government level. All these measures were much 
appreciated by the mass of the population and even by the 
educated &lite, who were delighted at this restoration of 
value to their national institutions. 2 

The Social Christian Opposition Party again seized this 
occasion to blame the Minister for encouraging pagan 

1 Louis Dekoster, Le chef indigene', Rewe GfaiirdL Beige, no. 43, May 

1949, pp. 143-8. 

Jean Paelinck, 'Les autorit& indigenes', Bulletin de V Association des 
Anciens Etudiants de VInstitut Unioersitaire des Territoires d* Outre Mer y 

1950, no. 10. 

Georges Moulaert, *La formation politique des indigenes congolais', 
Problemes d'Afrique Centrale, 4th year, no. 13, pp. 169-85. 
V. Vermeulen, Deficiences et dangers de notre polUique indigene (Brussels, 
Imprimerie I.M.A., 1953). 

2 M. Alois Kabangi, Minister of Planning and Economic Go-ordination 
in the Lumumba and Ileo Governments, has always been a great 
defender of the authority of the traditional chiefs; on the occasion 
of a visit to Belgium in 1955 he handed over to the Minister of 
Colonies a petition in favour of the chiefs; this document was used 
as a guide in the months to come in attempts to satisfy the demands 
it contained. 


institutions, and at the same time it conducted a wide- 
spread campaign in its newspapers against the traditional 
authorities, accusing them of abuses, corruption, extortion, 
even of ritual murders. Many chiefs tried to take action 
against these charges and asked permission to open legal 
proceedings, but they were not allowed to because the 
administration feared an open conflict between the chiefs 
and the missionaries who published these newspapers. This 
was the beginning of a movement of civic disobedience, 
which spread rapidly over the whole Congo and found 
enthusiastic support among the youth of the country. 

A typical example of the catastrophic consequences of 
such uncontrolled campaigns, based on slogans of Christian 
equality, is seen in Rwanda. There the Hutu were inocu- 
lated with a revolutionary virus, as dangerous as any 
Communist propaganda and with the same aim the 
complete elimination of the Tutsi, the traditional aristo- 
cracy of the country. 

The campaign was started in the early fifties in the 
Temps Nouveaux d'Afrique, a French weekly published in 
Usumbura by the White Fathers, and Kinyameteka, a 
fortnightly paper published in the Kinyarwanda language 
at Kabgay, the residence of the vicar apostolic of Rwanda. 
Week after week these publications made accusations under- 
mining the authority of the Tutsi chiefs, who had served 
the Belgian missionaries and administrators loyally for 
years. At the same time emotional writings popularised the 
picture of an oppressed and exploited Hutu, who ought to 
be freed from the burdens of Tutsi slavery. 

That the Hutu formed the proletariat of Rwanda was only 
partly true, because in spite of the obligations which linked 
him to his Tutsi master, he managed his affairs independ- 
ently. Besides, many clear-sighted Tutsi, and among them 
Mwami Mutara Rudahigwa, agreed that the Hutu should 
be freed from their obligations; in 1953, the 'ubuhake' 
system, a traditional form of cattle mitayage> was abolished 
by an order in council of the Mwami and the Hutu were 
entitled to become cattle proprietors; a similar reform for 


the system of land tenure was examined by the Superior 
Council of the country. 

The higher trusteeship authorities openly encouraged 
the Hutu after the death of Mwami Mutara Rudahigwa, 
particularly when the dissatisfied Tutsi created a national- 
ist movement which demanded independence. The antag- 
onism grew and culminated in 1959 in sanguinary slaught- 
ers between two opposed groups. All this might have been 
avoided if the attitude of certain administrators and 
officials and missionaries had been more impartial. 

European Authority. Those responsible for the breakdown 
of African authority do not seem to have been aware that 
their action undermined the whole principle of 'authority' 
in all its aspects and consequently of European authority 
too. The Africans very quickly extended to their European 
rulers the critical attitude and civic disobedience they had 
adopted towards their chiefs, just as in the past they had 
extended to the Belgian administrator, employer and 
missionary the filial respect and veneration they had for 
their traditional authorities. But the condition then was 
that the white man treated them in the traditional, custo- 
mary way, that he gave them his protection; the white 
man who did not behave like a father, who showed no 
kindness, who gave no protection, was not obeyed. 

The Africans have always respected and listened to 
Europeans who consented to live near to them, tried to 
understand them, talked to them and discussed their prob- 
lems and used their wisdom to solve them. Ministers like 
MM, Franck and Buisseret, strong personalities who con- 
sented to sit informally at the same table with Africans and 
displayed interest in their problems, enjoyed a great 
popularity and were regarded as great white leaders. 

On the other hand the Africans despised the white men 
of the towns, who showed themselves to be superior and 
peevish, who did not even know the native settlement next 
door to them, who admitted no contradiction when they 
spoke. Unfortunately the Congo and Rwanda-Burundi 


were governed in these last years mostly by bureaucrats, 
who had little or no practical knowledge of local administra- 
tion and the problems of the mass of the population, and 
were guided only by juridical principles or economic theories. 

Consequently it is not astonishing that when on 4 
January 1960 the riots started in Leopoldville, no high 
personality, apart from the Procureur du Roi, had the 
courage to cope with the situation on the spot; instead they 
shut themselves up in their homes, protected by the -military, 

On that day the Africans discovered that the leaders of 
the white men were afraid of the black men, and this was 
to be confirmed by the policy of systematic abdication in 
the months to come. So died the myth of the strength of the 
white man and with it vanished all the confidence in his 
wisdom acquired by the African hi the past. 

Deterioration of African Confidence 

Although the Belgians had given no immediate response 
to the manifestos of July and August 1956, the Africans and 
their emerging political leaders maintained a great confi- 
dence in the future during the following months. 

M. Kasavubu wrote in all sincerity in the March 1957 
issue of the Leopoldville monthly La Voix du Congolais: 

6 As to our co-operation with the Europeans, it must 
remain traditional. A tradition which must be full of 
humanity and charity. 

'The first European who set foot on Congolese soil was 
welcomed with friendship by our ancestors. With the same 
hospitality it is customary to receive Congolese of another 
clan, another country, another racial grouping ... As for 
us, we shall not deviate from this traditional behaviour of 
our ancestors. We shall practise their policy of living in 
peace, respecting the rights of the inhabitants. But we ask 
that our rights shall also be respected.' 

About the same time M. Patrice Lumumba wrote with 
his well-known impetuosity: 

'We rely with optimism on the good faith of the Belgian 
Government 'and are convinced that no effort will be 


neglected, either by the Belgians, or by the native elites, to 
facilitate and hasten the evolution of the indigenous popu- 
lations towards autonomy. 

'Autonomy or union, that is a question for the future. 
When we have enough African doctors, agricultural 
engineers, technicians, civil engineers, contractors, geolo- 
gists, administrators, magistrates, only then can we ask that 

Tor the present and for years to come, we have no desire 
to separate from the Belgians, as there are no reasons at 
present to justify such a separation. 

c We must still get it into our heads that in the Congo, 
without the Blacks the Whites are of no value and without 
the Whites the Blacks have no value either. This economic 
interdependence makes union necessary for us. 

In the same way, we fight against all racialism or selfish 
nationalism, because such feelings generate social conflicts. 
Our dearest wish perhaps some may find it Utopian is 
to found in the Congo a Nation in which differences of race 
and religion will melt away, a homogeneous society com- 
posed of Belgians and Congolese, who with a single impulse 
will link their hearts to the destinies of the country. It is 
only at the price of such common effort that we shall 
succeed in safeguarding our freedom and our national 
unity.' 1 

The fact that these sentences were written in jail by the 
future Prime Minister of the Congo Republic gives an 
even greater significance to them. In a memorandum, 
entitled Le Congo, terre d'avenir, est-il menace? 2 , finished 
about 21 January 1957, M. Lumumba devoted three 
hundred pages to celebrating Belgo-Congolese friendship. 
He repeated statements of this sort throughout the whole 
of that year and even in 1958 after leaving prison, for 
instance in April at a general meeting of the Atetela 
federation, when he was elected as their president. 

1 In a letter to the author. 

* Published in Brussels, 1961, by Editions de 1'Office de Publicity. 


The Africans patiently awaited a decision on their claims 
for 'equal pay for equal work' ; they knew that the negoti- 
ations were going ahead in spite of certain opposition, and 
finally the news came that a definite decision would be 
submitted to a final meeting of the delegates of the various 
interested parties. While the Africans expressed great satis- 
faction, the Europeans showed discontent, which was 
exploited once more by Minister Buisseret's political op- 
ponents. On his arrival at Elisabethville on 22 February 
1958, angry settlers and even government officials organised 
a noisy demonstration to show their disagreement with the 
'statut unique', which established equal conditions and 
salaries for all government employees, black and white. 
The African population disapproved of the behaviour of 
the Europeans and next day organised a demonstration of 
sympathy for the Minister. 

This lack of sympathy among the white population of 
Elisabethville shook the confidence of many Africans; they 
came to the conclusion that the Europeans were not in 
favour of their advancement and that they would have to 
fight for any improvement in their situation. At the same 
time they were deeply shocked by the lack of courtesy 
among the whites towards their own authorities. 

Their confidence received a new blow when a few months 
later Minister Buisseret, whom many regarded as a libera- 
tor, left the Ministry of Colonies. The installation of a 
conservative Government augured badly in the minds of 
the Africans, especially when the Colonial Office went to 
Governor-General Petition, with whom the Africans had 
never felt much sympathy. Even this announced intention 
to follow a policy of 'decolonisation' could not stir up their 
enthusiasm, and when he visited Elisabethville in August 
1958 the Africans paid him back for the white population's 
disrespectful demonstrations against Minister Buisseret six 
months earlier. 

At that moment the Africans began to be uneasy and 
discontented at the growth of unemployment, which struck 
particularly at the young; those who were unemployed 


quickly became delinquents and rebels. It was these young 
people who organised the riots of 4 January 1959 in Leo- 
poldville and who destroyed the schools to which they had 
not been admitted because of lack of space; the riots of 
Stanleyville of 29 October 1959 were also the work of 
youngsters; even now these teenagers, for instance the 
Jeunesses Baluba in North Katanga and the Jeunesses M.N.C. 
in the Kivu Province, continue to cause disturbances in the 
Congo Republic. These groups reject all authority and 
create anarchy wherever they get the chance. 

Events after January 1959 continued to undermine 
African confidence in the Europeans, for instance the 
cowardly behaviour of the Belgian high officials during the 
riots and the continual vacillations and hesitations with 
regard to the timing of independence. While in the past, 
Belgian colonial policy had been characterised by the 
slogan -.firmness and kindness, in the last months of colonial 
rule, all firmness was abandoned and kindness became weak- 

The final blow was struck at the confidence of the 
Africans by their political advisers. For years African associ- 
ations had appealed to Europeans to help them in their 
management and these whites had given their services in a 
friendly and modest manner with no thought of honours or 
reward, but with a sincere desire to help the Africans, 
stimulated by a strong idealistic conception of the duties 
of the white men in Africa. A great deal of the work of the 
cultural associations, the social clubs, the organisation of 
leisure and sports during the last years was the fruit of their 
labour, and the Africans felt a great sympathy for these 
advisers who day after day came to the African settlements 
after work and sacrificed most of their leisure time to 
welfare work. It was natural that the new political parties 
at first asked for help from these advisers, but the latter 
were inclined towards conciliation and moderation in 
political action. 

In 1958 many of the emergent political leaders came to 
Brussels, either as visitors or as employees at some stand at 


the International Exhibition. They were enticed by young 
Belgian intellectuals (university professors, sociologists or 
barristers) who fancied themselves as cut out to play a role 
in the liberation of Central Africa; they convinced the 
African political leaders that the wise and moderate advice 
of their white friends in the Congo was inspired by an 
interested concern to prolong Belgian rule as long as poss- 
ible, and that they could only advance rapidly towards 
freedom and independence with the help of a group of 
young Belgian intellectuals. These people appeared in 
public for the first time at the Round Table Conference of 
January and February I960, where they were incorporated 
as official political advisers. 

Instead of trying above all to express clearly, frankly 
and objectively, in all their simplicity, the basic opinions 
and demands of the African political group that had called 
upon them, the political advisers strove to capture their 
support for their own Belgian political parties and make 
them side with Western political, economic, financial, 
social and religious theories, in which the Congolese were 
not at all interested and saw no practical advantage for 
their group. Typical in this respect was the pressure exerted 
by the Social Christian Party upon the Abako, the M.N.C. 
Kalonji (a dissident faction of M. Lumumba's party) and 
M. Bolikango's Parti de F Union Nationde (PUNA), and by 
the Belgian Socialist Party upon the Parti Solidaire Africain, 
the Parti Progressiste du Katanga (Balubakat), the Union des 
Mongo and the Parti du Peuple. 

At the same time these advisers wanted to make them- 
selves useful to the Congolese party that they were backing, 
and they recommended electoral techniques used in Europe, 
with their whole battery of insults, calumnies, underhand 
blows and intrigues; according to newspaper reports a 
university professor even sent a team of his research staff 
to help in the electoral campaign of a group of political 
parties he was supporting personally. 1 

1 Le Soir, 9 June; L'Essor du Congo, 13 June; Le Courrier d'AJrique, 10 
June; Pourquoi Pas?, 8 July 1960. 


The colonials did not want to lag behind and they also 
joined in the struggle, but as they gave their support to the 
more moderate parties, the latter were at once suspected of 
being sold to the whites and the capitalists and they lost 
popularity; the P.jV.P. was the chief victim of this reaction. 

All this resulted in great confusion, in which nobody, 
neither the Africans nor the Europeans, knew any longer 
what they were doing. Europeans were fighting and de- 
nouncing one another and trying to avenge themselves 
under the banners of the African political parties. The most 
scandalous case reported by the newspapers in this field 
was the suppression by the Katanga Government, allegedly 
on the advice of a Belgian university professor, of the 
Official University of Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi, 
its replacement by the Katanga State University College 
and the banning of most of the professors of the former 
university because they belonged to another Belgian uni- 
versity than that of the adviser of the Katanga Government. 1 
Even learning was mixed up in the general disorder which 
spread through the Congo in the weeks preceding Inde- 
pendence. The black man saw that the white man's wisdom no 
longer existed. 

Meanwhile the unrest continued to increase and terrible 
prophecies circulated that white estates were to be 
plundered, white women raped and white men massacred; 
the terror was growing and by the end of June 1960 the 
Europeans were in such a state of psychological tension 
that general panic was to be feared at the first incident. 
This did not escape the Africans; they understood that 
henceforth the white man could no longer protect the black man, 
and consequently he could no longer inspire confidence. 

Erring Acculturation 

Throughout this disorder, and because of it, a character- 
istic cultural phenomenon appeared which put the finishing 
touch to the anarchy a phenomenon known as "erring 
acculturation 5 . 

1 Powrqvoi Pas? y 11 November; Le Soir> 15 November 


We know that acculturation is the effect of contact 
between two cultures on either of them. Acculturation is 
directed toward a fairly well defined object, the harmonious 
adaptation to each other of two or more cultures in contact 
or of one particular culture to the surrounding changing 
world. The normal mechanics of acculturation consists in 
the substitution of a cultural trait or an institution of one 
culture for that of another. There is acculturation between 
Western cultures as well as between Western and exotic 
civilisations, but while in the first case the changes occur 
gradually and steadily, in the second case we witness 
something much more rapid the precipitation, we could 
even say the catapulting, of Western cultural traits and 
institutions into an exotic civilisation. 

The normal process of acculturation is achieved when 
the new cultural trait or institution inserts itself harmoni- 
ously into the existing culture pattern without causing any 
trouble; that is the case when the substitution of a new 
cultural trait for the old one is justified because it responds 
better to the needs of the society or when its addition to the 
cultural pattern responds to new needs. 

There has always been acculturation on these lines in 
Africa and there are many examples of culture changes 
which occurred in tribal societies before the arrival of the 
Europeans, in order to ensure a better adaptation to new 
conditions or to new contingencies, such as an invasion, 
when the invaded had to accept certain of the invaders' 
political and social institutions, in order to establish normal 
friendly relations. 

When the Europeans penetrated into Africa, a similar 
process took place according to the same laws. Sometimes 
acculturation was spontaneous, because the Africans 
wanted the change; in other cases it was imposed by the 
European rulers. In both cases acculturation could be 
accomplished harmoniously and respond to existing needs. 

Sometimes, too, acculturation takes place capriciously, 
without any need or any clearly determined aim; in that 
case we speak of 'erring acculturation 3 . The normal process 


of acculturation is very often accompanied by such capric- 
ious changes, but in so far as they remain of secondary 
importance, and the general trend of development con- 
tinues logically and involves a constant improvement for 
the society, no evil will result. Danger appears when erring 
acculturation dominates. 

For years acculturation took place in the Congo in a 
harmonious way and all efforts went toward the establish- 
ment of a balanced African society. A system of local 
government and traditional courts based upon the tribal 
units, the stabilisation of labour on the mines, the steady 
increase of African incomes and the appearance of an 
African middle class, the improvement of housing, health, 
education and labour conditions, the gradual abolition of 
the colour bar, the integration of Africans into an elaborate 
labour organisation and into advisory boards and councils 
all this directed the acculturation of the Congolese and 
minimised the danger of erring. There was a certain 
amount of erring in that period and there are many 
examples of clumsy, although sincere, attempts to incorpor- 
ate the Western world, and all the things it brought, into 
the old cosmology: certain magico-religious sects and 
certain social clubs like the Ase Beige in the Northern 
Sankuru area 1 were typical of that outlook; in fact they tried 
to approach e the new world with means and tactics bor- 
rowed from the old 5 , i.e. with all those methods which can 
be covered by the elastic, comfortable term 'magico- 
religious 3 . 2 

In certain cases, however, the European administration 
introduced erring elements into the new African culture 
pattern, for instance the civic merit card and the immatricu- 
lation, which were created in 1948 and 1949 to stimulate 

1 The Ase Beige (the Belgians) was an imitation of European society 
with its whole hierarchy, its whole structure and way of life. Being 
regarded as contrary to public order> it was forbidden by an Ordin- 
ance of 18 July 1941 of the Provincial Governor of Lusambo. 
* Dr. J. van Baal, 'Erring Acculturation*, American Anthropologist) 
vol. 62 no. 1, February I960, pp. 108-121. 


the Congolese towards a better i.e. a European and 
Christian-orientated way of life and should have given 
them certain rights of assimilation, i.e. made them the 
equals of the white people. If on paper the effects of these 
institutions looked sound, in practice they made no change 
in the subordinate situation of the Africans ; thus well-meant 
institutions contributed to a great disillusionment., to ill- 
feeling and the frustration of their desire for better things, 
a frustration which gave birth to envy and distrust. 

The very realistic policy of the years 1954 to 1958 
emphasised the fact that advancement in wealth and social 
standing depends on education and professional efficiency; 
the extension of education, a pre-established programme of 
wage-increases which doubled the amounts over five years, 
and many other social improvements gave the Congolese 
some confidence that better living could be obtained by 
rational methods. 

But this confidence disappeared in 1958 when social 
progress was halted because of the economic recession, 
when unemployment increased and thousands of young 
boys saw themselves debarred from future progress because 
they could not find a job and there was no room for them in 
the schools. 

It was about that time that Minister Petillon, instead of 
taking concrete measures to face at once the real problems 
of the moment, announced with a flourish his policy of 
'decolonisation'. If he thought that this abstract and vague 
conception would galvanise disillusioned Africans, he was 
wrong, because the word 'independence 5 appeared at the 
same time in the African settlements and was immediately 
surrounded by an aureole of magic. 

'Independence* was the miracle word which would give 
to the Congolese all they were longing for, especially 
equality of power, knowledge, wealth and social standing 
with the Europeans. It became a slogan which was thrown 
in the face of European motorists driving through African 
settlements, it was written up on walls, songs were sung 
about it, it was the favourite refrain of all political 


argument, and it was above all the war-cry of the riots 
of January 1959 in Leopoldville. 

Many Congolese did not grasp the implications of 
'independence' ; they only understood that they would live 
in the houses of the Europeans, drive their cars and marry 
their women, and several paid high amounts to swindlers 
who promised them these 'goods' on Independence Day. 
Because their greatest desire was to partake fully in Western 
ways of life, these people showed themselves blind to the 
rational sequence of events; they expected miracles to be 
within their grasp. 

Dr. van Baal gave an explanation of this phenomenon, 
describing similar situations in New Guinea and Melanesia: 1 

'Where wealth and progress figure so obviously in the 
realm of myth and miracle, it is no wonder that people are 
induced by the poor outcome of their effort to shut their 
eyes to the logical sequence of things and concentrate on 
the realisation of miracles, thus blocking their way to real 
progress. Repeated failures to realise the coveted miracle do 
not result in a better understanding of the natural order. 
The cause of failure is never sought in a misinterpretation 
of that order but unfailingly in the methods applied to 
enforce the revelation of the miracle. The belief in miracles 
allows an endless variation of method in approaching the 
supernatural. Meanwhile, desire, stimulated where con- 
tact is intensified by an increasing display of unattainable 
wealth, is more and more frustrated by repeated disap- 
pointment and ultimately breeds nothing but pure envy/ 

Finding no solution to their problems, some exasperated 
youngsters, after Independence, advocated a return to the 
conditions that prevailed before the arrival of the Euro- 
peans, and even resorted to forms of violence from the 
ancestral ethos; the Jeunesses Baluba of North Katanga 
resuscitated their ancient war-magicians and revived the 
use of ritual murder; one of their great chiefs, Kabongo, 
was killed by them in the same way that pretender- 
emperors were put to death in the old days; Kabongo's 
1 Van Baal 3 'Erring Acculturation', p. 111. 


crime was to have disagreed with the spirit of violence of 
these young people. 

Thus erring acculturation, based on distrust of the 
surrounding world, destroyed in July 1960 the last spark of 
hope of the Congo reaching Independence in peace and 


This account is far from complete. I purposely abstained 
from writing about the tragic events which occurred in the 
Congo during the last months, because too many details 
are still missing. 

It is not too early, however, to start seeking the causes 
of these events and to show the motivations of the 'Congo 
revolution' in their true light, in the hope that the respons- 
ible authorities may perhaps take notice of them in their 
future relations with the Congo Republic. 

Perhaps this account could also be useful to the colonial 
governments of neighbouring African territories which are 
still dependent, and teach them that they could avoid 
'erring acculturation' by facing persistently and courage- 
ously, in a realistic, concrete, progressive and constructive 
way, the problems of the populations they administer. 

I will finish with a word of hope. The Congo remains one 
of the wealthiest nations of 'Black Africa' and its economic 
possibilities are unlimited. It is marked out for a brilliant 
future and, in better circumstances, it could have taken a 
prominent part in African affairs, starting from the first 
days of its independent existence. Insufficiently prepared 
for its task, because of a too rapid and badly organised 
approach to Independence, the Congo will first have to go 
through its present crisis, which may take some months, if 
not some years. Nevertheless I remain convinced, and I 
hope with reason, that African common sense, which I 
experienced for twenty-four years, will prevail again in the 
near future. Then, I am sure, the Congo will be able to 
take up the leadership in Africa for which it is destined. 


Table I 

Comparative Statistics of Non-European Students in Metropolitan Primary 
Schools (1956 to 1959) 





Administered by 




Religious Bodies 


( ) 

on behalf 


of the 













































































































(*) The State-administered schools were run by a staff appointed directly by the 
Government and in Government-owned buildings. 

(t) In the schools which were administered by religious bodies, on behalf of the State, 
these religious bodies selected their own teaching staff, which had however to be 
approved by the Government, which paid the salaries directly to the teachers. The 
buildings were owned by the Government, but were put at the disposal of the 
managing religious bodies. 

(**)In the schools which were only subsidised by the Government, the teaching staff 
was likewise selected by the religious bodies, and approved by the ^State. The 
teachers received their salaries from the relitfious body, which was reimbursed by 
the Government up to eighty per cent. The buildings, which belonged to the 
religious body, were also subsidised by the Government up to eighty per cent of 
their value at the time of construction. 






CO 0" ^ 

3O SH 



=t it 1 

J- .-. *- 1 

SI -a 6 .S 

rQ O jj 


"^ H Go 

JK <0 "73 PH 


P IS -M 



oo 4> 
K3 * O 







*-? ' **~* 

O cs 


g ^ 







8 1 

9 S 



1 1 

a s 

* H ^ 
^ xc .2 


cc t-< 


1 1 




S I 




1 a- 


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